Grants awarded for new splash pad and playground in Sykesville, new trail and observatory in Taneytown

Sykesville and Taneytown parks could be getting major upgrades in the near future thanks to grant funding recently awarded to each municipality.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, awarded 19 Community Parks and Playground grants totaling $2.5 million across the state this year, according to the department’s website. Among the recipients were Sykesville’s Millard Cooper Park and Taneytown’s Bollinger Park, each to receive $150,000, according to DNR.

Grants like these are coveted as they are 100% funded and do not require a match, said Jeff Degitz, Carroll County’s director of recreation and parks.

“The purpose of the program is to renovate, rejuvenate, develop parks in municipal areas,” Degitz said.

Counties cannot apply for Community Parks and Playground grants, Degitz said — only municipalities, towns and cities can. He called the grants a “great opportunity” for Taneytown and Sykesville.

‘A flagship park’ in Sykesville

If all goes according to plan, Sykesville will have a splash pad and a new playground installed by the end of the summer, according to Jared Schumacher, town grants manager.

Sykesville plans to build a 2,500-square-foot splash pad with a holding tank and water play equipment that would be located inside the park to the left of the entrance, Schumacher said. It would be the only splash pad in the county that is free to the public, he said.

“We thought it was a unique project,” Schumacher said. “It has equipment that will shoot out water.”

Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw said Friday evening that everyone on the Town Touncil is aware of the plans to build the splash pad and playground.

“We're really excited about it,” Shaw said. The project will be “something cool, something different” for the town, he said.

Aretha Adams, former town manager, suggested the splash pad in the past when she and Schumacher were discussing ways to improve the park, Schumacher said. Adams was from Texas, where splash pads are more common than in Carroll, Schumacher said.

The grant will reimburse Sykesville after the project is complete, he said.

Schumacher got word of the splash pad grant award in April, then learned shortly after that DNR awarded the town another grant. The open space grant will allow Sykesville to construct a playground next to the splash pad, Schumacher said.

He hopes the two projects can be built at the same time and designed cohesively. Plans for the playground are still underway, but Schumacher estimates it would cost about $89,000.

“I think they saw the vision we were trying to accomplish,” Schumacher said of DNR. “We had the plan in the back of our minds to make Cooper Park a flagship park.”

Taneytown gains trail, possibly an observatory

The property once owned by the Bollinger family could next year be transformed into a park to benefit all of Taneytown.

The Bollinger Park plan features a multipurpose nature trail and possibly an observatory, according to Jim Wieprecht, acting city manager. Town officials have wanted to use the undeveloped land for some time, he said.

“I think as long as we provide the access, I think the community is going to utilize the park,” Wieprecht said. “The intent is that it stays a nature park.”

The Westminster Astronomical Society verbally expressed interest in building an observatory, with telescopes, for the park if the city prepares the land and handles stormwater, Wieprecht said.

The city owns more than 100 acres across several parcels of land bordered by Francis Scott Key Highway (Md. 194) and Fringer Road, Wieprecht said — of those 100 acres, 50 belonged to the Bollinger family. The Bollingers donated the land to the city and the annexation became finalized in January, according to Wieprecht.

Taneytown Mayor Bradley Wantz said the Bollinger Park development has been a long time coming.

“It’s exciting to see that money coming in,” Wantz said. The City Council is “very supportive” of the nature trail, he said, as the city is eager to build parks with “purpose.” The city also recently received a grant through the county for about $80,000 to replace a deteriorating playground at Taneytown High School Recreation Park, Wantz said.

The first phase of the project involves building an access point from Fringer Road, as well as adding a driveway, a small parking area and stormwater management facilities, Wieprecht said. A 6-foot-wide “loop trail” covering about 30 acres would be built on the Bollinger parcel, which borders Md. 194, according to Wieprecht. The trail might be gravel, but plans are not set in stone, he said. The observatory would be the second and final phase of the project, according to Wieprecht.

The town is currently in the “design phase” of the project, Wieprecht said, but his preliminary cost estimate of the project stands at $180,000. The grant would cover most of the expenses, but the city has funds set aside for the park and hopes to begin construction in 2020, lasting about six months, Wieprecht said.

County goes for grants

Seven public transit buses past their prime need to be replaced, and the county hopes a federal grant can replace two of them.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved the submission of a grant application by the Department of Public Works.

“MTA (Maryland Transit Administration) is really not giving a positive outlook on replacements,” said board President Stephen Wantz, R-District 1. “It’s absurd to me that we have to continue to fight to get buses for models that are completely past their life.”

Jeff Castonguay, public works director, expects that the MTA will give the Carroll Transit System three or four buses. Seven buses in the fleet of 40 have more than 200,000 miles apiece, which is past their useful life, according to Stacey Nash, transportation grants coordinator. To alleviate this issue, Public Works is applying for a competitive grant offered by the Federal Transit Administration.

The grant would give the department nearly $125,000, which includes a near-$25,000 match from the county, according to county documents. The county should learn in the fall if the grant application was successful, Nash said.

In other business, the commissioners renewed the grant for the Senior Care Program.

The program, through the Bureau of Aging & Disabilities and local agencies, helps adults who are 65 and older remain independent, according to county documents.

“This is really a nursing home diversion program to help keep people out of institution and in the community, and we have found that this program is very successful,” said Celene Steckel, bureau chief.

The Maryland Department of Aging grant will go into effect July 1, giving the bureau about $198,200, which includes a match from the county at about $11,000.

mkeller@baltsun.com

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