Sykesville took the first steps toward providing more recreation for its residents when the Town Council approved architectural drawings for Burkett Park Monday.
The town received an $18,600 state grant last month that it will use to begin the first construction phase of the seven-acre park along Norris Avenue.
"We have the final spoke in the wheel to get this project going," said James L. Schumacher, town manager. "We can use the money to complete the first phase of construction."
The county and Sykesville each will contribute $3,000, bringing the total to nearly $25,000. The money will pay for architectural and engineering fees.
"We can develop the [specifications] and get the project out to bid at any time," Mr. Schumacher said. "Whatever money is left will go to park improvements."
Councilman William R. "Bill" Hall said he estimated construction would be completed in three phases during the next four years. Mr. Schumacher said the town could apply for more grant money in two years.
"We are allowed to reapply every two years for about $25,000," Mr. Schumacher said.
Volunteers are offering their labor and their ideas to help build the park at the west end of town. Residents met at the park recently with Chris Batten, an architect, and Councilman Hall to decide what recreational outlets will be included in the planning stage.
After viewing Mr. Batten's preliminary drawings, they asked for one change: no big-league ball diamond. Originally, plans called for a 275-foot graded field, bleachers and a backstop. Neighbors told the council they would settle for a shortened ball field where the youngest children could play pickup ball, but they balked at any larger diamond.
"We don't mind a little grading," said Joseph F. Burba of Norris Avenue. "But we don't want 19-year-olds knocking a ball 275 feet out of here a few years from now."
Residents said they envision a landscaped park with pathways surrounded by a split-rail fence. They want picnic areas -- possibly with a pavilion -- and improvements to a tot lot that is already on the site.
"We want this land for a community park, not a Little League or lighted major league playing field used all hours of the night in summer," said Bill Ruane, whose yard backs up to what would be home plate. "A ball field is too much for an area with houses on three sides."
Mr. Ruane suggested a small field for young players, a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit.
"We felt we were being forced into a ball field," he said. "We liked everything else and offered the architect alternatives. Let's utilize concepts for all ages."
Mr. Schumacher said any remaining grant money could go to refurbishing the tot lot.