Rec Sports Spotlight: Carroll County parks set for improvements

The projects being planned by Carroll County's recreation and parks department are a lot different than those of 25 years ago.

Back then, the county was buying land and developing big new parks at an aggressive pace to keep up with the explosive population growth of the 1970s-1990s. But in recent years, that growth has slowed greatly. The department's priorities have changed to reflect it.


All those new parks and athletic fields added 20 years ago are suddenly middle-aged, and they are showing wear and tear. So now, it's more a matter of repairing, maintaining and sprucing up the things that have already been built rather than adding new ones.

Yes, there are new facilities being added within those parks. But, those facilities are much different than the older ones.

Ball diamonds and soccer fields are giving way to more passive recreational amenities.

Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Degitz said “we have an aging population. There are fewer school-aged kids, and more people in the 50-and-up age group.”

He noted new facilities planned and underway reflect that changing make-up. Degitz said his department has three major priorities in allocating its capital funding for new projects.

“We want to finish what we started in some parks like Leister and Krimgold,” Degitz said. “We also want to renovate what we already have. And, we’re getting a lot of requests for walking trails and pickle ball facilities. We’re not adding new tennis courts; we’re drawing lines on existing tennis courts for pickle ball now.”

For those who don't know, pickle ball is played on a tennis court using wooden paddles and a perforated, polymer ball, something like a wiffle ball. The playing area is much smaller than that for tennis and the game is slower. Originally invented in the 1960s as a backyard game for children, it has proven popular with older folks over the years.

The money is there for projects such as these. The county’s capital budget which funds new construction, stands at about $1.6 million. And the state's Program Open Space money, the key funding source for recreation projects in local jurisdictions, has been steady. Next year's POS monies have already been authorized, Degitz said.

Degitz said the northwestern area of the county has the greatest need for additional passive recreational facilities.

He wrote, “we are looking to develop facilities in this part of the county such as trails or water access for fishing and kayaking as there are some beautiful vistas to enjoy.”

However, no land has yet been acquired for new projects in that part of the county at this time.

There are several major projects in early stages of planning and design, although construction timelines haven't yet been established.

One of the most exciting is the proposed construction of the county's first artificial turf football field at the former North Carroll High School stadium. This would be available to teams from around Carroll County.

The county has approved roughly $500,000 for the project and awaits Maryland General Assembly approval of a bond bill for additional funds. At that point, a construction timeline can be developed.


In the future, the stadium itself may be renovated and improved, although that will require additional capital project funding.

Another major project is redevelopment on the site of the former Charles Carroll Elementary School. Plans for a community center with a middle school-sized gymnasium and classrooms are in the design and planning stage. There are also plans to replace the fencing around the ball diamonds and repair the site's basketball and tennis courts.

The 33-acre Westminster Veterans Memorial Park, located near the intersection of Hook Road and Md. 97, moves slowly ahead. The park would be a purely passive one, with a pavilion, playground and walking trails.

The county has purchased 18 acres adjoining the present southern boundary of Deer Park. This new acreage would be improved with two soccer fields, parking and a lengthening of the existing walking trail.

The Westminster and Deer Park projects are in design with construction bids to go out later in the year. Construction must await final county approvals.

This summer, construction will likely begin on a kayak launching ramp at the Double Pipe Creek Park on Middleburg Road in Detour. It should be available by next spring.

The Bear Branch Nature Center is in line for a new roof which will probably be funded in next year's capital budget, Degitz said.

Lighting will also be improved at the Carroll County Sports Complex in Westminster.

“We're renovating lights on Fields 1-3,” Degitz said. “They were originally put in back in 1989. This will be better lighting, more energy-efficient and there will be less spillage into surrounding areas.”

The money for the lighting becomes available this summer, however no construction schedule has yet been devised. Degitz said that efforts would be made to minimize the work's effects on softball schedules and games.

There are plans to finish a walking trail at Leister Park in Hampstead and parking area improvements in Krimgold Park in Woodbine over the next year or two.

So, with funding sources reasonably secure for now, Carroll County seems in a good position to continue providing the recreational facilities needed by its residents. And many of those facilities will even be getting a sprucing up.