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Vision of 'simple' park on Towson parcel unfolds at public forum

Florence Newman, center, looks at a map of a proposed 2.36 acre park in Aigburth Manor during a public forum Monday on the facility. Newman lives near the proposed park, which would be built on property owned by Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses.
Florence Newman, center, looks at a map of a proposed 2.36 acre park in Aigburth Manor during a public forum Monday on the facility. Newman lives near the proposed park, which would be built on property owned by Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses. (Rachael Pacella / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Towson residents began this week to mold the image of what some already refer to as Radebaugh Park, a proposed park in the Aigburth Manor neighborhood, saying they would like to see a simple space with a walking path, flower gardens and perhaps some play equipment.

At a forum Monday night, more than 60 residents discussed preliminary plans for the park, which would be built on a 2.36-acre parcel owned by Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced Nov. 2 that Baltimore County will buy the property for $1.1 million, after an environmental study of the land found no issues that would prevent the purchase.

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The county will convert the property, at 50 Aigburth Ave., into a community park, county officials said. The Radebaugh family, longtime proprietors of Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses, at 120 E. Burke Ave. in Towson, signed an agreement to sell the parcel to the county Sept. 15. The business is not closing — the family decided to sell the property because old greenhouses on the land had become inefficient to use.

The purchase of the property is still pending the approval of the Baltimore County Council, which will vote on the measure Dec. 19. Towson council representative David Marks said he plans to vote to approve the purchase.

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Marks and members of the open space advocate group, Green Towson Alliance, co-hosted the forum at the First Lutheran Church of Towson to gather input from the community to share with officials of the county's parks and recreation department. Parks and recreation director Barry Williams attended the meeting to hear input from the community. The unofficial forum was atypical, Williams said, but a valuable event to gather ideas from the people who will use the park the most.

"I like listening to your ideas," Williams said. "I have my own ideas, but I don't live in this community. This is your community. And therefore, as much as possible, I'd like to see you all have the kind of park that you would want to have."

Residents shouldn't limit their thinking by considering funding at the moment, Williams said, adding that a park on the parcel would typically cost up to $1 million. The park could be built in phases to spread the cost, he said. When making requests for amenities such as fountains, Williams reminded residents to ask themselves, "What happens if it should break? What happens in the winter time?"

He also reminded residents to keep issues such as handicap accessibility in mind, and said that the property is too small to be used as a sports field.

The county would maintain the basics of the park, though if the community wants special amenities, such as gardens, residents would have to maintain those. He warned residents about such maintenance, saying that, in other county parks, residents have planted gardens with the intention of maintaining them and then, "after a couple years it kind of goes by the wayside."

'As simple as can be'

Residents were encouraged to visit four stations set up throughout the room to write down ideas about connectivity, environmental enhancements, such as rain gardens, activities and features, and park themes. Attendees could also place stickers next to ideas they supported.

From those subjects the idea of a flower garden, paying homage to the property's history as greenhouses for a florist, received support, as did the idea of a simple walking path.

Greg Gabell, who lives near the proposed park, said he would like the space to be a calm and peaceful.

"As simple as can be," he added.

The idea of movable playground equipment also received support, while others, such as creating a skate park, didn't fare as well.

Residents and officials also discussed another question related to the park — what to do with a home at 11 Maryland Avenue that is currently owned by the Radebaugh family and rented out and that will be included in the county's proposed purchase.

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Proposals from residents included turning the house into a community center, or tearing it down to create an entrance to the park. Brenda Ames-Ledbetter, who lives next door to the house, said she would prefer to see the county sell the parcel to generate revenue to build the new park, and to maintain the integrity of the community, keeping the house in place.

Joe Radebaugh, a part of the third generation of the four-generation Radebaugh Florists & Greenhouses, also attended the meeting to hear ideas for the property. He received applause from the crowd, as thanks for working with the county to bring a park to the parcel instead of selling it to developers, as some residents said the family could have.

Marks said he plans to introduce legislation to name the park after the Radebaugh family. He added that he hopes the park will be completed by 2018 and will work to secure funding for that from the county.

If the council approves the purchase, the next step for county officials is to demolish the greenhouses on the site, Williams said.

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