Recreation report offers alternatives to street play Facilities could build feeling of community


A committee considering Mount Airy's recreation needs has found itself also wondering how to build a sense of community in a fast-growing commuter town.

Town meetings held by the Mount Airy Pro-Active Committee, created in January after residents protested a Town Council action barring children and teen-agers from playing in the streets, attracted more than 150 people.

Residents submitted ideas ranging from a Mount Airy high school to a community swimming pool. Their ideas were incorporated into the 14-member committee's report.

"Throughout the meetings, we found a common thread, the desire to maintain and establish a greater sense of community," states the report, which was submitted to the council on Monday.

Chairman Roger Rich, a partner in a Rockville company that makes banners and signs for sporting events, was pleased with the council's positive reaction.

"I think they responded and accepted 100 percent of what we recommended," he said.

The only counterpoint came from Councilman Norman C. Hammond, who said he agreed with the recommendations but felt that the committee hadn't answered its original charge -- alternatives for children who play in town streets.

He said he would seek support from other council members to reconsider an ordinance that bans street play. The measure was approved by the council in October 1996 but vetoed by Mayor Gerald R. Johnson. The council allowed the veto to stand.

Volunteers plan to form four committees to work on the group's priorities: a recreation center with a year-round swimming pool; a Mount Airy high school; a park for in-line skating and skateboarding; a rails-to-trail project that would convert an unused section of former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track.

The committee will try to improve communication among Mount Airy residents. Their first effort will be a community telephone hot line with recorded messages about nonprofit organizations, town government committees and scheduled meetings. The committee hopes to have the line open by December, Rich said. The $3,000 installation cost will be covered by donations. Participating organizations will pay an annual fee to maintain their messages.

The committee also plans to sponsor a monthly calendar of events in cooperation with the Mount Airy Economic Development Commission, install community bulletin boards in local businesses, add information to the town's Internet home page and sponsor a "community challenge night," in which civic and sports organizations and churches would set up information booths for residents to learn about the community.

People who attended the July town meetings asked for a recreation center that would provide year-round swimming, a gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, and meeting rooms for activities such as aerobics or crafts.

Rich said the recreation center committee will look at possible sponsorship from the YMCA or the private sector.

Residents saw a local high school as a way to build community, Rich said.

"What we heard was that people want to pull the town together, and this is a way to do that since we lost our high school in 1966," he said.

The Carroll County school board plans to build a $25 million high school in South Carroll in 2001. That school, the third in South Carroll, is planned to be built adjacent to Linton Springs Elementary School near Eldersburg.

Rich said private skateboard park operators are interested in a joint venture with Mount Airy. He said the rails-to-trails committee wants to work with the town parks and recreation commission on rights of way acquisitions for the trail.

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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