Neighbors want to dial down the noise at Columbia's Blandair Park

On weekends, Oakland Mills resident Jon Mayhew can hear the results of nearly every play from youth football games at Columbia's Blandair Park while sitting in his own living room.

Much to his chagrin.

"The amplified noise has got to stop," said Mayhew, standing beside one of Blandair's turf fields no more than 200 yards from his home. "It doesn't need to be turned down, it needs to be turned off."

Mayhew was one of 16 Howard County residents to share his concerns about Blandair Park during a meeting with Howard County Parks and Recreation Department officials Tuesday night at The Other Barn, in Oakland Mills.

About 70 people turned out for the meeting, with some becoming emotional during their testimony and others testifying in favor of the park activities as long as some adjustments were made.

Some Oakland Mills residents said they are upset with the noise produced by stadium air horns, scoreboards and speakers, along with noise from crowds, and want the sound systems taken down or turned off.

"This is not what we agreed to," said Mayhew who has lived in Oakland Mills since 2000 and attended "many" of the planning meetings for Blandair Park.

Other residents said they were concerned with the light produced by the stadium lights, traffic on roads that are intended to be walkways and park visitors cutting through their backyards.

Director of Howard County Parks and Recreation John Byrd said the county will look at their policies in response to concerns from citizens, but he wants to ensure the park policies are consistent across the county.

"I think we need to understand the full scope and I think we got that tonight," he said.

He also said residents who have concerns with activities in the park can call the county's non-emergency hotline at 410-313-2929, and a county official will address the issue that day.

Jerome Alston, president of the Howard County Terps Booster Organization, said his group was responsible for some of the complaints during a recent weekend tournament.

He said the sound for player announcements was turned up for the children's enjoyment, but the Terps are willing to work with community neighbors to address their complaints.

"We recognize the community has some concerns and we want to be good citizens," he said.

15 hours of noise

Some residents, like Doug Bottamiller of Oakland Mills, said noise is a regular problem from Blandair.

Bottamiller said he and his wife occasionally take their two daughters to their parents' house on weekends, just to escape the noise.

"Fifteen hours a day is just absurd," Bottamiller said, referring to how long the park is in use on a daily basis.

Blandair Park hosts football, lacrosse and soccer practices, games and tournaments throughout the week.

Park hours are from sunrise to 11 p.m., when lights are expected to be turned off, Byrd said.

Jenny Hermance, an Oakland Mills resident, said she has heard whistles blowing as early as 7 a.m. from inside her home.

Oakland Mills resident Mike Nickel said not only is the park affecting his quality of life, but he and his wife are concerned it is affecting the resale value of their home.

"We can't imagine why anyone would live next to this," he said.

While Nickel is planning to move, he said it is not solely because of the park.

But Bottamiller and Mayhew said they are not even considering a move.

"I'm not moving, I'm not going to change," Mayhew said. "It'll be a long fight."

Big investment

Phase I of Blandair Park, including a playground, three artificial turf fields complete with bleachers and press boxes, a picnic shelter and restroom facility, opened on 25 acres in March.

The first phase cost the county $6.7 million, but the entire eight-phase, 300-acre Blandair Park project is expected to cost $55 million.

Phase II, scheduled to begin this spring, will include two baseball fields, a playground, picnic shelter, parking lot and tennis courts.

County Councilman Calvin Ball, who represents District 2 including Oakland Mills, said he has heard from residents on the noise issue and believes the county should consider a clearer policy on noise, including amplified sound, and appropriate hours for the park.

"That's just something we need to work on and address," he said.

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