The National Park Service is considering Frederick’s developing Westside Regional Park as a site for a training center and other facilities, including possible community meeting space.
The location would provide a permanent home for the park service’s Historic Preservation Training Center, and the Harpers Ferry Center-Museum Conservation and Collections facility, a complex that could ultimately bring up to 150 jobs to the city.
The service is also looking at Monocacy National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry as possible locations, Mike Seibert, branch chief of the service’s Asset Management Program, told the mayor and aldermen at a workshop Wednesday.
The city would have to approve a resolution of support for the project to move on to the next planning phase.
If the plan ultimately gets approved, the park service would buy about eight acres of the 135-acre park currently being built along Butterfly Lane on Frederick’s southern edge, including the Hargett farmstead.
The Historic Preservation Training Center is currently housed in three locations, with its administrative offices in a building at the Monocacy National Battlefield, its training center and workshops at a building in the city, and its storage facilities at the farmstead on the future site of the Westside Regional Park. The Harpers Ferry Center is currently located in Charles Town, W.V.
The training center has 70 full-time employees, while the Harpers Ferry Center has 15, according to a city staff report. The number of total employees at a joint location could increase to 150 employees within the next five years, according to the report.
While there’s no design yet for what the buildings would look like, Seibert said the service designs its projects to fit with regional architecture.
“The Park Service designs building for parks,” he said.
Along with its government functions, a facility could provide public meeting space during non-work hours, he said.
If the Butterfly Lane site is selected, design and construction would probably occur between 2023 and 2025, Seibert said.
The report received enthusiastic support from the aldermen.
“I have to say that I’m giddy about this opportunity,” said Alderwoman Kelly Russell.
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak agreed, adding that she was excited about the chance to fix up the old buildings on the farmstead, which the city would’ve had to do any way.
“To me, this is essential, and it’s a great use of space,” Kuzemchak said.
Alderman Ben MacShane called the proposal a very appealing concept in a good location.
But he questioned whether selling off the parcel along Butterfly Lane could hamstring the city as it looks to develop other parts of the park.
“This is not a back corner of the property,” MacShane said.
Alderman Derek Shackelford agreed with MacShane about not wanting to section themselves off from future opportunities, but said the project is a great opportunity to increase property values in that part of the city.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said that while a resolution of support isn’t a guarantee that anything will happen, it could help the project move forward.
A resolution will be brought to the aldermen at an upcoming meeting, he said.