Some Jarrettsville area residents are concerned about parking problems at the local Rutledge Park, especially when vehicles block their driveways during large events – or when police officers park there while on duty.
About 17 people were in the audience during the most recent Jarrettsville/Norrisville Community Council meeting at which overflow parking and other issues with the park were discussed.
Marylin Bradford, who lives across from the park, which is just off Route 23 (Norrisville Road), said that during July two vehicles were parked on the private driveway that leads to her family's farm, blocking the way to their homes.
She said she called the Harford County Sheriff's Office, which referred her to the Maryland State Police – state troopers respond to incidents in the vicinity of numbered state roads – and the vehicles were eventually towed.
Bradford addressed her question to Sheriff's Office Capt. Jack Meckley, commander of the Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville, during the Nov. 19 community council meeting, held at the Jarrettsville library.
Adam Moore, a community council member, said Rutledge Park, and parks and recreation facilities in other parts of the county, such as Fallston, typically have overflow parking issues during large lacrosse and soccer tournaments, when drivers often park their cars on neighboring streets.
"Typically you don't have that big bulk [of traffic]," he explained. "It's when the tournaments are held."
Moore noted that major regional events, such as the LAX Splash lacrosse tournament, become bigger draws each year, with people coming from out of state to take part.
He said the LAX Splash tournament is centered at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium and that "every single recreation field in Harford County and Baltimore County is utilized."
Nancy Dance, who also lives near Rutledge Park, expressed her frustration with bright lights shining after dark, vehicles at the park after it is supposed to be closed, parking problems and overbooking of the facilities.
She, Bradford and other residents said they have been trying to work with county parks and recreation officials on a solution to the problems.
"I am a little testy about the whole situation over there," Dance said.
Meckley was challenged by the audience about Sheriff's Office vehicles sitting in Rutledge Park. Audience members asked why deputies could not find a more high-profile area, such as a service station or a bank parking lot, when sitting in their cars.
"The car's our office," he replied. "We're in it for eight hours."
Meckley said areas such as parks serve as quiet areas where deputies can quickly type reports into their vehicle computers, eat meals and use the restroom if portable toilets are available.
"I think we all know what it's like to try and have quiet time to get work done," he said.
In response to the parking issue at Rutledge, Meckley said property owners could call and have a vehicle towed if it is on a private drive.
He said he did not want to ticket an "innocent" out-of-town driver attending a tournament who did not know where to park.
He encouraged audience members to bring the issue to the community council, explaining matters such as roads and a lack of parking could not be addressed by law enforcement.
"Maybe we should look at it holistically and identify the problem and not just the symptoms," Meckley said.
Community Council Chairman David Seman said he would get in touch with the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
Council member Rick Russell said local leaders should consider "economy of size" regarding tournaments and place restrictions on the number of teams, at least with smaller tournaments.
"You can't legislate how many family members attach to one player or one team but you can have economy of size," he said.
Moore said the tournaments, which draw teams from all over the world, have an economic benefit to Harford County.
"If you really think about it, they do bring in some money to the county, because they all have to eat somewhere," he said. "They all are staying somewhere."
Mark Grubb of the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company spoke at the meeting about practicing home fire safety, such as when using fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.
Grubb advised homeowners to get their chimneys cleaned and inspected once a year, especially when using a wood-burning stove because "they tend to choke up quicker than an open fireplace."
"We've seen chimney fires burn houses to the ground," he said.
Grubb also cautioned against using water to put out chimney fires; he said it is best to use a "dry chemical extinguisher" and spray the chemicals up the chimney so "the draft will suck it up the chimney and out the top."
Grubb echoed advice which had been provided by a resident during the Oct. 29 Jarrettsville community meeting, who noted a hot chimney would explode when hit by water.
Grubb said firefighters have "dry chemical bombs" which they can drop from the roof down the chimney if spraying chemicals up it does not work.
"Everybody should have a dry chemical extinguisher somewhere in proximity to the fireplace," Seman advised audience members.
Grubb noted smoke detectors are available for residents to pick up at the Jarrettsville firehouse, including detectors designed to alert the deaf and hearing impaired.
He also said fire company officials are "always" looking for volunteers.
Positions are open to people age 16 and older, and a variety of jobs are available beyond fighting fires or saving lives.
"You don't have to be a firefighter or paramedic," Grubb said.
Anyone interested can visit the firehouse at 3825 Federal Hill Road in Jarrettsville.