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Stream restoration? Ballfields? Westminster citizens share input on future of Wakefield Valley Park.

Members of the Westminster community said they wanted stream restoration, a disc golf course, an enhanced fishing area and bee hives added to Wakefield Valley Park.

A virtual meeting was held Wednesday evening by Westminster’s Recreation and Parks Department to receive public input on what to do with the 187-acre space. The former golf course was acquired by Westminster in February 2016 and city officials want to expand its features to more than the trails that already exists.

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Abby Gruber, director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, said during the meeting the public has taken advantage of the area for more than four years. And the city recognizes the opportunity and responsibility that comes with the space.

The park has been part of the city’s adopted strategic plan that identifies priority projects to work on through 2018 to 2021. The master plan of the park will provide a foundation for future city grant applications to finance park improvements. The mayor and common council authorized a contract with Pennoni Associates, Inc. help with the master plan’s development. The project will be funded with grant money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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Gruber said the development of the park’s master plan will help the city’s growth efforts by cultivating a space that will become the signature park for Westminster.

“It’s important to understand, we are not here tonight to present a predetermined plan for the property that you must accept,” Gruber said.

She added she wants to hear suggestions and comments from the community of what they want to see. Those comments will be documented and presented at another meeting. The second meeting will be in February and the department will present a plan to the council in March.

At the end of the virtual meeting, viewers were told how to access a link that allows them to leave comments on a map of the park through a program called Padlet. About two dozen comments were left.

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“We should consider adding a walking access path here for easy access for Fenby Farms, Eagleview and Furnace Branch residents,” one comment read.

“I would encourage any master plan to first consider how we can adequately maintain the natural areas, before we add more development, like ball fields,” read another.

Some suggested spaces for sports like a football field, disc golf and a baseball diamond. A few people posted that limited development should be done and the trails that already exists should remain.

“This area has had some reforestation to protect the stream. However, many invasive plants are also taking over the area and killing many of the native tress and shrubbery. I would encourage any master plan to first consider how we can adequately maintain the natural areas, before we add more development, like ball fields,” one commenter said.

Peter Stone, a senior landscape architect with Pennoni Associates, said he’s excited to join this project.

“It’s a unique opportunity from a professional standpoint,” he said.

In his experience, master plan sites are usually on undeveloped land but Wakefield Valley is already an active recreation site.

Stone said he’s been with the firm for over 20 years and has done a lot of recreation and park work over the years, including in Carroll County.

He said the public most likely knows more about the site than he does, but from his observations, he noticed the stream is an opportunity for environmental restoration like improving water quality and wildlife.

When he and his colleagues from the firm visited the former golf course in November for a site analysis, they noted where the park access is, where floods can occur and noted areas where to avoid any development, like ponds and slopes. Then they developed goals to help guide the plan.

The five goals are development of additional park activities, access, connectivity to sites and trails, restoration of natural areas and telling the history of the site.

The Durbin House that’s located at the park will receive an historic structure assessment. It was built in 1767 and serves as the original clubhouse for the golf course.

After 35 years, the golf course closed in 2013 and was purchased the next year by a developer who donated it to Westminster.

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