With county ball fields all at peak use and residents clamoring for more and varied recreational outlets, the commissioners have promised to have three new parks under construction next spring, adding playing fields, hiking trails and gyms and enhancing green space throughout Carroll.
The county will spend nearly $4 million to develop Leister Park in Hampstead and Krimgold Park in Woodbine and to build a 7.5-mile trail in the 1,200-acre Gillis Falls Park. The commissioners will also include a community gym in the new South Carroll Senior Center in Eldersburg.
The two smaller park projects, Leister and Krimgold, will add nearly 250 acres to the county's inventory of public parks.
"We are looking at a nice blend of active and passive recreational opportunities," said Richard J. Soisson, county director of recreation and parks. "We are also trying to meet the needs of our recreational councils with facilities that will be good for everyone. Basically, it is a quality-of-life issue. We improve quality of life by having these amenities here."
The county has recently inventoried all its parks and is drafting a master plan for recreation.
"The county needs active recreational fields," said Daphne Daley, a county planner. "The existing ones are at peak use or are not meeting demand."
The Gillis Falls project, near Mount Airy, is the least complicated of the three and at $900,000, the least costly. It will probably be the first to open, as early as spring 2007, officials said.
A 10-foot-wide trail would follow the natural terrain along a route that would be outfitted with benches, rest stops and small bridges over wetlands and streams. Hikers and bikers would have the option of several shorter alternative trails and parking at four locations along the route. The land is already popular with equestrians.
"We have planned this trail where there would be the least impact to the environment and least problem to develop," said Soisson.
The trail would ideally surround the county's long envisioned Gillis Falls reservoir, should that water resource ever win federal approval. Future plans call for pavilions, campsites and picnicking areas.
"Any permanent structures would be built outside the design for the reservoir," Soisson said.
The $1.7 million Leister Park, an easy walk from Hampstead's downtown and a stone's throw from a new senior housing complex, will include a gym, multipurpose and baseball fields, and a paved, 6-foot-wide trail similar to those at Freedom and Sandymount parks.
The planned park's namesake, Howard Leister, sold his 107-acre farm to the county at half its appraised value two years ago to preserve the land. The county will keep Leister's home for a caretaker's residence, use the barn for storage and possibly expand the pond for anglers.
"I think this park will be used more because of the gym," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "The several entrances to the trail will also make it easier for walkers, especially the seniors who will live nearby."
Recreation officials have scheduled a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria at Spring Garden Elementary to discuss development of Leister Park. Residents can view and comment on preliminary designs. A similar meeting last month on Krimgold Park drew more than 200 participants.
Krimgold Park, also a former farm, stretches for nearly 140 acres from Buckhorn Road to Woodbine Road. By late 2007, the $1.5 million park should open with nine fields, picnic areas and a 2-mile trail along four existing ponds that will be stocked with fish.
"Leister will add fields for the northern area of the county, and Krimgold will serve the Freedom and Winfield Recreation councils in South Carroll," Soisson said. "The idea is to provide some relief to rec councils that have programs so full that they have to turn kids away."
The future at Krimgold Park includes a gym and an indoor soccer facility, but those plans are on hold while the county seeks a private business partner.
In addition to the county's contribution, money for the parks projects comes from impact fees, assessed on new development, and the state's Program Open Space funds, which will amount to $1.2 million in fiscal 2006, the largest contribution in nearly five years.