Currently, the area includes a small house, which the city plans to tear down and turn the space into a park, using a state grant called “Open Space Fund”
I blogged about the park in March here: Little House at the Gateway.
The City proposes “(an) educational resource for the community that would be instructive for single-family homeowners in the City looking to incorporate native or edible plants, rain gardens, previous pavers, and other environmentally friendly techniques into their landscape.”
But not everyone agrees with this proposal. One resident has this to say:
“For many of us in North College Park, this “Gateway” has become the brunt of many jokes. First, the City purchased a house for some $346,000.00. There will be an additional fee to remove the home as well as funds for a designer to figure out what to do with the property. This doesn’t include the actual work to make it a “pocket park”. In the end, North College Park will have a “pocket park” worth anywhere from $500,000 and above that no one will go to. It will become a lot City staff will need to maintain by mowing the grass, picking up trash and removing graffiti. The City justifies these expenditures by saying they are “open space” and “grant” funds; however, neither is “free” money.”
District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn does not agree with this criticism. “it is true that a large majority of the cost of purchasing the home has been through Program Open Space funds, so the cost to the City has been minimal. Of course, the City will have to do maintenance in the park, as it does in all City facilities, but the cost associated with that will be minimal. … The City is continuing to apply for grant funds to cover the cost of designing and developing the park.” – said Mr. Wojahn, who supports the idea of the gateway park.
Others criticize the plan because of the accessibility issues to the park. “I guess I just wonder with the effort and the thought that will go into designing the park in this way who will see it. It is not a very accessible location.” - said one member of the City’s Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) group, which recommends the city on environmental related issues like a proposed garden park such as this.
Other residents want the city to use the house as a demonstration site, something like showcasing a community oriented solar electric system. A similar project has recently been introduced by a group of University Park residents.
Others are also concerned about the cost and environmental issues surrounding the plan. “I love the idea, but I would like to see the city pay to have the house disassembled so that the materials can be salvaged, rather than having a demolition crew knock it down. If the park is going to be built using “environmentally friendly techniques”, that should start with how the lot is cleared in the first place. It’s a brick house, so perhaps the bricks can be used to build garden paths, etc” – commented Alex Weissman, another CBE member.
Cost of the project also concerns Donna Weene, a resident living at 49th Place, not very far from the proposed park: “It would be nice if the city could sell the ‘house’ cut the house from the foundation and move it to an other location It would not cost to get rid of the house but profit; then the city would not have to put any money to take down the house and have money to plant, etc. ” – said Donna.
Donna is also concerned about the traffic safety at the intersection. If developed, the proposed park will be in a bottom of a hill and thus she thinks it will most likely compromise the traffic safety at the intersection “How long after they remove the house, do you figure a car/ truck ends up in that hole. The city paid alot to put up a sign you think? - she asks.
Others think, if the park is owned by the City, it (City) could have better leverage in improving the traffic safety at the intersection. Like others, I also feel the eastbound lane of Edgewood at the intersection is too narrow and thus should be improved to have a better and a safer access to the neighborhood.
Despite residents’ concerns, Councilman Wojahn defends his support for the park. “I think the [City] staff thought putting a park in this location would be a good idea because: 1) it’s at a location which, for many people, is a gateway to the City, and is very visible as you’re driving in off the beltway or from Beltsville; 2) part of the plan for US 1 in the future is to make it walkable and bikeable. If there are better sidewalks and bike lanes along US 1, this could be a resting point or an entry point into the neighborhood from these paths; and 3) it’s also an entry point to the neighborhood for people who get off the bus there, and for people who walk across the street to Shopper’s Food Warehouse. At some point, with the US 1 rebuild, SHA will hopefully be fixing up the intersection there to make it more friendly to cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.” – he added.
The City Council is expected to discuss the matter further in the next Tuesday’s council meeting.