Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced Thursday that the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks has received an $8 million grant from the state of Maryland that will be used for improvement projects at Centennial, Schooley Mill and Warfields Pond parks.
Approximately $7.3 million of the funding will be used for renovations at Centennial Park West in Ellicott City, including athletic lighting replacements, the conversion of three natural baseball diamonds to synthetic turf, and the possibility of replacing two natural playing fields with one or two all-purpose turf fields. Pathways in the park will also be reconstructed.
The remaining funding will be used to replace playground equipment at Schooley Mill in Highland and Warfields Pond in Glenwood.
“These critical improvements benefit our residents and visitors all ages and abilities,” Ball said at a news conference at Centennial Park West. “Thanks to this important investment in Howard County, we can continue to be the very best place to live, work, play and grow for generations to come.”
Del. Courtney Watson, who represents District 9B which includes most of Ellicott City as well as parts of Columbia and Elkridge, said funding for parks was an important agenda item when the Maryland General Assembly started its 2021 session.
“We had just been through nine months of lockdown around the state due to the [coronavirus] pandemic. We had evidence during those nine months of the increased usage of our parks and open space both locally and at the state level,” Watson said. “It became very important to the Maryland General Assembly to find money to help improve our infrastructure in parks and in open space statewide.”
Watson stressed that the $8 million Howard County received was funding from the state, not federal stimulus money. The assembly, she said, was able to assign $85 million to local governments across the state to be used as grant funding for park opportunities. An additional $140 million was assigned to state parks across Maryland, she said.
The one-time funding will not add to the state’s budget debt in the future, Watson said.
Raul Delerme, director of Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, said the funding was greatly needed and will allow the department to make “necessary access, use and safety upgrades” to all three parks.
“Our parks in Howard County are in high demand for many active and passive users,” Delerme said. “Many of our parks were developed over 30 years ago and are now starting to show their age.”
The project is just starting the design process, Delerme said. Construction could start either in late summer or in the fall, and would likely take about a year, he said.
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“We encourage our residents to get up, get out and get active in our parks,” Delerme said.