Severn Park is set to become a swimming centre; the surrounding community tries to stop it – Baltimore Sun
A nearly $40 million recreational and competitive swimming center is in the early design stages and is expected to be built at Provinces Park in Severn by 2026, county officials say. However, a coalition of community groups from Arundel Forest, Turnbury Run, Strawberry Hill and Disney Estates are doing everything in their power to stop it being built in their neighborhood.
The swim center has been in development for a decade. It was originally to be built in Odenton, but when the proposed property couldn’t accommodate the plans, the county looked north to Severn, said District 1 council member Sarah Lacey, a Democrat from Jessup representing Provinces Park. The project was officially moved in the county’s current budget from an unidentified location in Provinces Park, which was found to be the most suitable of 15 locations evaluated by the county.
“In 2021, we were told there was no way this could go forward in Odenton,” Lacey said. “We had very little time to review it and we didn’t have time to reach out to the community and find out what they thought about it.”
The 45 acres belonging to the county The park includes tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds and multi-purpose sports fields. Victor Smith, president of the Disney Estates Homeowners Association, said the park is a valuable asset to the community. This is why many Severnians love to live there.
When Smith learned the swim center was coming to Provinces Park, he and other community leaders solicited feedback from residents through petitions and email and found an overwhelming majority were against it. building the center there. So far, leaders have collected more than 171 signatures from those who say they oppose the center being at Provinces Park. Seven said they were for it.
“Honestly, if everyone in my community was for it, I wouldn’t have a dog in the fight. I’d be like, ‘OK, yeah, that sounds good,'” Smith said. this. Period.”
Lacey spoke with her constituents about the proposed center and requested that officials from the Department of Recreation and Parks come to the site and speak with residents, but were told that in-person meetings would not take place until 30% of the design work would not be completed. , she says. In July, she asked again and was again told that the project was still too early in the design phase.
A 2020 Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks the feasibility study shows renderings with 800 parking spaces and an aquatic center that can accommodate 2,718 people. These are very approximate numbers that will change, in part based on community feedback, said Jessica Leys, director of recreation and parks.
“We are still in the early stages of designing this project,” Leys said. “We’re not eliminating the park and just building an aquatic center. We try to bring that element into the park and mix it with the elements that are already there.
While Lacey said she received about 10 emails in support of moving the swim center to Provinces Park, she received more emails in opposition.
The department plans to begin meeting with the community this winter to discuss the center, Leys said.
“It’s not just that we take on your community park to create a pool. We really want to consider incorporating things like [a] walking path, improving the existing playground, adding more community amenities to the park,” said Leys, adding that she had heard from community members that they would like to see gazebos, benches and pavilions. also added.
Smith cited construction work and the loss of green space as concerns along with the relocation of sports fields.
“It’s like taking a Costco that has 600 parking spaces and putting it in a park,” he said.
Smith said he’s heard concerns from residents that people from outside the neighborhood regularly come to the aquatic center.
According to the feasibility study, the center will host countywide swimming competitions that will attract approximately 1,500 people daily from November through March. The facility will also host Board of Education drowning protection courses, lifeguard training courses, day camps, parties, reunions and adult fitness classes. Leys said it will feature two separate pools – one for recreation and one for competitions.
The bottom line, Smith said, is that an aquatic center doesn’t belong in a residential area, butting up against houses, forcing residents to accommodate people from outside their neighborhood.
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Whether it was meant to be or not, Smith said he and members of the Severn community felt compelled to stop playing their sport to make room for other pursuits.
Recreation and Parks found county data showed the park had been used less in recent years, while most other parks in the county were seeing greater demand.
“We are currently reviewing the layouts to try to preserve as much land as possible to meet the demands of their current athletes, current programs going on,” Leys said. “Even though the pool will take up some of the physical space, we are still confident that we will be able to meet the demands of recreation.”
Lacey will only represent the region for a few more months. She decided against running for another term, instead challenging incumbent state Senator Pam Beidle, a Democrat, in the July primary, a race she lost. Democrat Pete Smith, who represented District 1 on the council from 2012 to 2018, will face Republican Jeremy Shifflett in the November election to replace Lacey. While Shifflett did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Smith expressed opposition to the project being located in Provinces Park.
“I can walk to this park. I live just down the street,” he said, noting that he runs there often and his daughter played football there for eight years. “It is still not the ideal place if we want to remove the fields and other sites that sports organizations currently use.
It’s a tough situation, Lacey said. County residents have been asking for more amenities in the northern and western parts of the county as the population continues to grow and the county is already spending money on the aquatic center, she said. But without seeing a draft of the design, it’s hard for him to have an informed opinion.
“I think the opportunity is worth it, but I also wouldn’t want anyone’s quality of life to be really ruined or disrupted by this project,” she said. “It’s hard.”