The decision to name the new pavilion in Bel Air’s Rockfield Park for the Schlehr family, in honor of the family’s years of service to their hometown, was “such an easy task,” according to Mayor Susan Burdette.
“There is no family in the history of Bel Air who has given so much of their passion, their skills, their values and thousands of hours of time to our community,” Burdette said during a ceremony Tuesday afternoon, preceding the ribbon cutting to dedicate Schlehr Pavilion.
Chris Schlehr, who worked for the Town of Bel Air for 21 years as public works director and the town administrator, was in the front row for the dedication ceremony held on the sheltered patio of nearby Rockfield Manor.
He was joined by his wife, Joyce, brother Peter, who has served on the town Planning Commission since 1991, brother Michael, a local real estate appraiser, Peter’s wife, Sandy, who serves on the town Cultural Arts Commission, and their daughter, Kristien Schlehr Foss, the CAC chair and a teacher.
Burdette described Foss as a “very busy mother,” “extreme Bel Air sports fan” and a prolific volunteer for town events.
Chris Schlehr, 68, was hired as Bel Air’s public works director in 1992 after he retired from the Navy. He became town administrator in early 2000 after his predecessor, William N. McFaul, died suddenly in late 1999. Schlehr led the town government until he retired in late 2013.
“We’re thrilled, and I’ve got to say, we’re humbled,” he told the audience.
Chris Schlehr, one of five children and a Naval Academy graduate, talked about growing up in Bel Air — his brother, Mark, of Fallston, could not attend as he and his wife are traveling in France. Their sister, Kathy, is deceased, but her daughter, Hollin Weaver, attended the ceremony, according to Peter Schlehr.
The siblings, children of Jane and the late George Schlehr, went to school in Bel Air. Chris, Michael and Peter played on famed coach Al Cesky’s undefeated 1965 football squad for Bel Air High School, Chris said.
“It’s a terrific tribute to the family,” Peter Schlehr, 70, said about the pavilion after the ribbon cutting. “We’re all here [in Bel Air], we continue to live here, grow our families here, retire here; we don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Sandy Schlehr, 70, grew up in Fallston and attended Bel Air High School.
She said members of her family have been inspired to serve, based on lessons they learned from adults growing up as well as seeing community needs that needed to be addressed.
“Sometimes you flat-out see a need, and you flat-out want to do something,” Sandy Schlehr said.
Peter Schlehr said he expects the pavilion will be soon be used for events such as the Harford County Wine Festival, scheduled for 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday on the Rockfield Manor grounds.
The pavilion is designed to be a picnic facility and outdoor amphitheater, town Planning Director Kevin Small said during the ceremony. It can be used by community organizations for their events, for town-sponsored events, by schools as a “living classroom,” plus general use by local families and residents.
It has been part of a master plan for the park’s development that was created in 1993 after the former owners, the Hoza family, sold the land to the town, according to a town news release.
“For many years the town could not afford the cost of such a structure,” Burdette said.
She and her fellow town commissioners sought out, at the suggestion of current Town Administrator Jesse Bane, state bond funding in 2016.
Del. J.B. Jennings agreed to help town leaders and obtained $100,000 in bond funding during the 2016 Maryland General Assembly session.
Jennings, a Republican who represents eastern Baltimore County and western Harford in Legislative District 7, said the state receives $100 million to $150 million in local bond requests each year, and it ultimately distributes about $6 million for community projects.
Jennings and the town commissioners traveled to Annapolis on a Saturday morning in March 2016 to make their presentation to state officials. The senator also praised the “team effort” from his Harford colleagues, Republican Sen. Robert Cassilly and Republican Del. Susan McComas. The latter two represent Bel Air and central Harford in District 34.
“It’s good to be here, and I want to thank you all for having the vision and pushing forward,” Jennings told town leaders.
Burdette gave Jennings a certificate of appreciation for his efforts to support the project.
Jennings presented a Maryland Senate proclamation to the Schlehr family; Robert Andrews, administrator of Harford Transit LINK, presented on on behalf of Harford County Executive Barry Glassman; and Councilman James McMahan presented on behalf of the Harford County Council.
“They’re a good family, solid, and they have contributed much to the Town of Bel Air, and to Harford County for that matter,” McMahan said