Letter: Park project moving forward

I would like to set the record straight about future development of South Branch Park, an important resource for the Sykesville community.
Despite news accounts, progress has not stalled. In fact, the park is in better condition than ever, and a solid plan is unfolding so that the property will fulfill its potential as a well-designed gateway for Carroll and Howard counties.
Improvements to date at South Branch Park represent an example of cooperation that we need more of in Maryland. And there's more on the way: working together, the Howard County and Sykesville governments, on behalf of taxpayers, have committed $550,000 to make sure South Branch Park has the amenities residents deserve. We are working on site-planning to insure sensitive structures are not located in the Patapsco River floodplain, but the challenge is surmountable.
Some history is instructive. For years, what is now the park property was an eyesore and a nuisance. Bars there caused trouble, and historic buildings fell into disrepair with no plan for renewal.
Howard County acquired the property and shut down problem businesses. Officials in Sykesville, recognizing the value and potential of the site, wanted to turn the location into a gateway. Howard County added landscaping and more.
In 2006, the partnership grew stronger. Sykesville entered into a lease with Howard County so that it could tap community support and make improvements, such as the skate park, and begin to schedule programming there and plan for building renovations.
Here's what is happening now. Sykesville and Howard County have secured more than a half-million dollars to take the park to the next level. Howard's funds are coming from the general budget; Sykesville's funds were secured through the Maryland Community Parks and Playground Program.
Several conceptual site plans have been discussed, but now Howard parks and planning staff are developing a new plan with full input from Sykesville officials that will include a new playground, bathrooms, a lawn seating area for events, courts and other amenities.
Mayor Ian Shaw and I are confident that the property will be used wisely and for maximum enjoyment of residents, while protecting the environment and following smart planning. We are committed to finding even more resources so when complete, South Branch Park will be a true example of what can be accomplished when neighboring governments work together for the benefit of their residents.
Ken Ulman
The writer is Howard County Executive.

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