Anne Arundel officials are set to unveil two possible plans for a park at the 488-acre Franklin Point site in the southern part of the county, but community activists say the plans do not represent the recommendations of an advisory panel appointed to discuss the future of the property.
Both plans, scheduled to be presented at a community meeting in Shady Side on Wednesday night, include possible sites for ball fields. But several members of the advisory panel said they voted to present a plan that included no ball fields. They say county parks officials are misrepresenting their recommendations.
"A lot of people feel very strongly that the property needs to remain a nature preserve," said Terri Nyman, a Shady Side resident who served on the advisory panel. "Destroying the trees and the wetlands and bringing in all those cars, it's just too much."
County officials said those who don't want any ball fields at Franklin Point will have a chance to speak at the meeting. But they also noted that the small area plan that includes Franklin Point says 20 percent of the site should be devoted to recreation.
"We know we have people who don't want any ball fields and they'll be expressing their opinions, and we know we have people who do want ball fields and they'll be expressing their opinions," said Dennis M. Callahan, director of parks and recreation for the county. "It's no different from any other project. We always hear diverse viewpoints and in the end, almost everything we do mirrors the requests of the community at large."
Callahan and fellow parks officials emphasized that they have not made a final decision on whether to include ball fields.
"For every feature on those plans, we want to receive positive comments and negative comments," said John T. Keene, chief of planning and construction for the parks department. "We're totally open to all of this."
The county paired with the state to buy the land at Franklin Point, which includes a beach on the Chesapeake Bay, for $6 million in 1998. In 2002, the county approved $100,000 for planning efforts at the site.
But community activists, led by the South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, or SACReD, expressed skepticism about the county's intentions from the start.
Last year, the group accused county officials of meeting in a van to discuss Franklin Point and prohibiting a radio reporter from recording another meeting.
Amanda Spake, the group's vice president, said park officials' recent actions have confirmed her worst fears about the project.
"The county is not presenting the recommendations of the citizens," Spake said.
Nyman, also a group member, said the advisory panel had rejected one of the plans the county will present Wednesday. "These are not the options the committee wanted to present," she said.
Nyman and Spake said Shady Side already has enough ball fields for a small community, though several of those fields are covered by water for large portions of the year.
Fields on the low-lying ground at Franklin Point would also flood frequently, they predicted.
Sheila Austin, another Shady Side resident who served on the advisory panel, said she was shocked that the county expects to present only the two options that include ball fields.
"I just wanted the community to be presented with all of the options," Austin said. "I think this may become a situation where the local community is against the county."
Wednesday's meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Shady Side Elementary School.
Callahan stressed that the property belongs to all county citizens, not just a small group of people who oppose ball fields.
Said Callahan: "When the final plan comes in, I think it will reflect the opinion of the community."