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Aberdeen weighing how to spend over $300,000 in federal grants, including potential parks improvements

The city of Aberdeen is deliberating on how to spend over $300,000 in federal grants, including possibly resurfacing its skate park, adding a beginner-friendly area to the park and potentially building a BMX pump track, among other projects.

Detailed in a March 22 presentation to the city council, the city is also considering using the federal community development block grant funds to repave sidewalks, resurface two public parking lots and construct trails through James Avenue Park and Beards Hill Park.

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Community development block grants are federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The purpose of the grants, according to HUD’s website, is to undertake projects that principally benefit low- and moderate-income residents of urban areas. The city receives those funds annually through Harford County and has about $322,000 in federal grants to spend, Director of Planning and Community Development Phyllis Grover said.

The amount of money the city gets is proportional to its number of moderate and low-income residents, Mayor Patrick McGrady said.

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The block grant can also be used to eliminate slum and blight in the city, Grover said, but the council has yet to decide how the money will be spent.

Aberdeen’s skate park could receive some of the federal funds. Money could be allocated to resurface the skateboard park as well as add a new, more beginner-friendly track to it. The cost of adding another component to the skate park would be between $30,000 to $40,000, Grover said.

At a Feb. 22 meeting of the council, Peter Purol and Jacob Peake, two skateboarders in the area, said North Deen skate park is in need of repair. The concrete is cracked in places, representing a risk to the people who use the park, many of whom are 16 and younger, Purol said. Both Purol and Peake have personally had issues with the pavement, and said the skate park could be better used if it were repaired.

“There [are] like cracks where the ramps meet the ground, there are large gaps where your wheels catch and you faceplant,” Purol said with a chuckle.

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The current ramps at the park are also steep for a beginner, Purol said, and the park could benefit from an easier area for people to learn to skateboard. McGrady said that the city was looking into fixing it and that block grant money could be used there, subject to the council’s decision.

“There are only a couple skate parks in the county and people come from all over to use it,” he said.

The in-line hockey rink next to the skate park, Grover said, could also be modified for use as a BMX pump track — a course of banked turns to be used for BMX biking and “all things on wheels,” according to the presentation. The benefits to that option, the presentation states, are the track’s minimal maintenance requirements and year-round usability.

The downside? It could cost between $150,000 to $210,000, according to the presentation.

“We would expand the current skateboard park next to that … into the pump track,” Grover said. “That cost is a lot more … versus if you were just to resurface the existing skateboard park and expand it somewhat.”

Beyond spending the money on replacing sidewalks, Grover presented estimates of costs to resurface two public parking lots between Howard and North Parke streets. Several estimates were made over a year ago, so they would have to be updated, Grover said, but the costs of such a project ranged from $6,000 to $69,000.

The city is also considering putting a walking trail at James Avenue Park, Grover said, which could range between $105,000 to $125,000 to construct, not including engineering and other associated costs.

Another option is a walking trail at Beards Hill Park, but because of the project’s size, the cost would be much greater at $546,000 to $700,000 to construct. Each of the trails would constitute about 1,125 linear feet of path, 5 feet in width.

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