Aldermen not yet ready to rezone rest of Hargett Farm for a park

This aerial photo taken in July 2011 shows the Hargett Farm property.

An aquatic center, regional tournament-worthy soccer fields, a merry-go-round and cross-country skiing trails were among the suggestions for the regional park planned for the city’s Hargett Farm.

The Tuesday night community meeting kicked off a 30-day period for city and county residents to share ideas for the 138-acre Butterfly Lane farm slated to become Westside Regional Park. Online and paper-copy questionnaires will be available through Dec. 10 for those unable to attend the meeting.

In September, the city Board of Aldermen awarded a $247,784 contract to G.E. Fielder & Associates to study and submit recommendations on transforming the vacant farmland into a regional park. The contract with the Laurel-based landscape architecture and planning firm outlines a six-month, 20-step feasibility study, culminating in a final master plan report submitted to the mayor and aldermen for a public hearing and vote.

Even though only a handful of residents and city officials attended the meeting, ideas were vast and varied.

City resident Roy Ghim advocated for the park to include elite-level soccer fields, comparable to those at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown. Ghim said the tournaments hosted in the Montgomery County soccer arena attract teams from around the region and the nation.

“From a business point of view, it would be cool if we could have tournaments on a similar level,” he said.

Frederick has baseball fields aplenty, but tournament-worthy space for other club sports such as soccer, lacrosse and swimming could be an asset, agreed Rob Fox, a member of the city Parks and Recreation Commission.

Resident Francesca Contento, however, wanted to see the land used for something more than typical park features such as sports fields and playgrounds. She suggested walking and cross-country skiing trails, as well as an aquatic center and atypical outdoor recreation activities.

Fox cautioned against implementing anything too unusual, however.

“I think we have some parks that are different that go unused,” he said. “Sometimes novelty wears off pretty quickly. What I don’t want is a big open field of things that go unused.”

Grace Fielder, founder and president of Fielder & Associates, welcomed these suggestions and others submitted through the survey as a key component of the study. Once the Dec. 10 deadline for comments and questionnaires passes, she and other firm members will use suggestions to draft several concept plans for the land.

Those plans, including drawings, will be presented for public review at a public hearing in February, Fielder said. The entire study, including a single plan submitted to the city, would be completed by mid-2016.

Other components of the project will include a physical and economic analysis of the site and project cost estimates.

The Butterfly Lane property remains undeveloped since the city purchased the farm in 2009, although interest on the $18 million price has been accruing steadily. A park plan was drafted from community feedback in 2014, but never implemented because of the city’s inability to fund the $51.3 million estimated cost.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(1) comment

elymus43

Sell the Hargett Farm ASAP. It is too much of a burden for the city to keep any longer..

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