Kittleman accelerates $3.3 million in funds for Blandair Park construction

.@HoCoRec unveils new capital projects, including Blandair Park construction.

Blandair Park, a 298-acre sprawl of land hugging Route 175 in Columbia, is entering its third phase of construction, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced on Monday.

The administration has committed $3.25 million in the upcoming capital budget, due to the council on April 1, to begin phase three of the multi-year project this fall, Kittleman said.

Overall, the county has invested $29 million in the project, according to Anna Hunter, a spokeswoman with the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

In 2012, the first phase of the project brought three multipurpose playing fields, a playground, a restroom and a pavilion to the land, which was purchased by the county in 1998 after its owner died in 1997.

The second phase — set to be completed by spring next year — will include two synthetic turf ball fields, five tennis courts and another playground and restroom, Kittleman said. Around 35 percent of the project has been completed, Hunter said.

Accelerating funding for construction in the third phase will finance a backyard games area, a maintenance facility, a dog park, a picnic shelter and restrooms, allowing the park to "rival other top parks," Kittleman said.

In a move to create more "inclusive" recreational facilities, Kittleman said a new "play for all" playground will be designed for children with varying abilities. The play area is 80 percent accessible for children with varying needs, he said.

Each phase will be connected to the county's bikes and pedestrian pathways, including a bus stop for transit vehicles, Kittleman said. Oakland Mills Road, which cuts through Blandair Park,, will open in spring next year after closing for construction.

The three-parcel property is surrounded by residential development. The North Area contains 200 acres of meadows, forests, wetlands and a farm complex. The South Area contains roughly 100 acres of former farm field. Woodlot, a parcel of 11 acres, is largely a forest area.

The park was part of land granted to the Talbot family during the colonial era. After the Civil War, it eventually became a horse farm when the Smith family bought it in 1937. The county purchased the farm a year after it halted operations in 1997 when its owner, Nancy Smith, died.

The county's recreation and parks department plans to also open a ball field and picnic pavilion at Troy Park and a skating area at South Branch Park, which is on the border of Carroll and Howard counties, by this summer or fall, said the department's director John Byrd.

Historic rehabilitation of Belmont Manor, Patapsco Female Institute, Clover Hill Manor and some buildings in downtown Ellicott City is also a priority, said Byrd.

Calling for a "busy year," Byrd said the county also plans to resurface the Patuxent Branch Trail as part of its transportation plan.

Planning and design for a pool at the North Laurel Community Center has also begun, Kittleman said.

Funds have already been earmarked for the project, according to a county press release. The county can dip into a fund balance of around $800,000 remaining from the center's original design, according to Andy Barth, the county's press secretary.

A popular request from local residents, the pool was originally put on hold because of uncertainties about future funding, said Barth.

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