Hargett Farm Park aerial, new plan

A city task force began work this week on planning to turn the former Hargett Farm into a 136-acre Westside Regional Park along Butterfly Lane, lower right.

The city of Frederick finally has a plan in place to develop a park at Hargett Farm.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a simpler, scaled-down version of the detailed multimillion-dollar Westside Regional Park plan that consultants presented in August.

Zack Kershner, the city’s director of public works, said the vote lets the city move forward on designing the realignment of Butterfly Lane and an internal access road planned for the property.

“This is kind of the first critical step to gaining access to property,” he said.

Requests for proposals are slated to go out in the spring. Kershner said the project should take about a year to design.

The future park is slated for 136 acres of vacant, city-owned property along Butterfly Lane known as Hargett Farm. City leaders in 2009 paid $18 million for the land, which has since accrued roughly $1.5 million in annual debt service with little progress toward development.

Last year, the city hired the Laurel-based consulting firm G.E. Fielder & Associates for nearly $250,000 to prepare a draft plan for the park. Consultants spent six months preparing the document, which came in with a $98.5 million price tag and tons of bells and whistles, and presented the results to the board in August.

Most of the elected officials balked at the cost and intricate details of the plan. Instead of voting on it, they sent it back to the drawing board. City staff members spent the past five months revising the draft plan, ultimately coming up with the much simpler version that the aldermen voted on Thursday.

The new plan identifies sections and lists facilities, amenities and infrastructure that could go in each one.

The original version called for a sports complex with multiuse fields and a stadium, a water park, an indoor swimming center, festival grounds and associated park facilities, among other developments. The old plan was also accompanied by a 400-plus-page document detailing an archaeological review, a site history, an economic analysis, traffic studies and illustrative renderings for each section of the park.

The new plan does not provide a new amount for the project. With the less restrictive details, however, officials have better options to shift costs.

Aldermen Phil Dacey and Josh Bokee and Alderwoman Kelly Russell spoke out loudly against the original plan, but said Thursday they are on board with the simpler version. They all said they appreciate staff members’ work to bring the new plan to fruition.

“It’s not limiting and it’s not restrictive,” Russell said of the new version.

“It will give us flexibility and feasibility for getting use out of the park in the near future,” Dacey said.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak and Alderman Michael O’Connor said they believed the first plan has flexibility, but also voted in favor of the simpler one Thursday.

Kuzemchak called the plan an economic development tool and said she is excited it was approved. O’Connor said he looks forward to going forward with the infrastructure for the development.

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(11) comments

greenhouse

So ... what exactly does the "simpler, scaled-down version" include? We only know that the "bells and whistles" are out, but the Aldermen must have batted around a few ideas. FNP?

matts853

Yeah, this is an article without a punch line.

matts853

If nothing else, this park needs a state-of-the-art indoor swimming facility. MOCO has 5 or 6 and we have none. Granted they have 4x the population, but it's a shame that FC doesn't have at least one completion level indoor pool. The Urbana YMCA is getting closer to a realty, but it's still many $ millions short and several years away from fruition.

Talk to MOCO, figure how they've been so successful in building and running these facilities and make it happen. This is a perfect concept in a perfect location. Instead of chasing after money for the overpriced, ill-fitting, and money bleeding conference center, look for a way to use those resource channels and fund a truly public facility that anyone can use anytime they want. A nice pool would attract more daily visitors to the city than a conference center ever could. That's always been the goal right - attracting people to the city? Just think of all the people this would draw to regional swim meets, some of whom may have never been to Frederick, but may want to come back and spend some time and money in the city. Do a real ROI and economic impact study - not a results oriented one bought and paid for to justify a land sale and subsidize a private business.

Then name it the Ronald and Karen-Lewis Young Natatorium and everyone's happy.

[wink]

shiftless88

While I like to swim as much as the next person, these big pools are expensive to build, maintain and staff. For what you describe you'd be better off with a nice soccer complex or artificial turf sports fields. I'd like to see a survey; it has always been my opinion that there is a vocal minority pushing for a swimming facility like you describe but perhaps it has broader support than I realize.

matts853

There are already plenty of soccer fields all over the county - in parks & schools. I live in Urbana and we have 2 parks with something like 6 soccer fields the are largely underutilized. Soccer parks are land intensive, require a lot of maintenance to keep green and mowed, create few full time jobs, and there's not a whole lot of middle-aged folks (like myself) or seniors that are playing soccer. But we like to swim because it's healthy and easy on the joints. Pools get people active. With the exception of Hood College, and a 5 lane pool at the city Y, there's no public place to swim unless you join a gym. And Sport & Health at Worman's Mill only has three lanes. All these places are small and crowded and not worth the effort, so I drive to Germantown and use the pool there. It is beautiful!

We also have artificial turf fields at several county high schools, Urbana being one. They are also very expensive @ $1 M +, and need to be refurbished every 5 years or so. They also don't generate any revenue.

A pool would be a much better option than more fields.

Kokoskmr

Frederick County has a vibrant swimming community. Every summer, about 1800 kids participate in the Frederick Summer Swim League. Each winter, almost 400 students swim on one of the 10 FCPS high school swim teams. There are three major club swim teams who practice and compete all year long.

These year round club teams host swim meets in the three FCPS school pools which are limited to 10 year old and under "mini-meets" by the space available in the facilities. Of the ones I have been involved with, there have been nearly 650 kids and their families participating. Of these, about 450 are from teams outside of Frederick County. USA Swimming meets like this are multi-day affairs. Swimmers are only allowed to compete in one 4 hour session per day. The rest of the day, they and their families will eat in local restaurants and shop in local stores. Since meets are multi-day events, many will stay in local hotels. All of this should bring exactly the kind of economic activity that makes the expense of a facility of this sort worthwhile.

A first rate nataorium in Frederick would allow local teams to host more and larger swim meets for a larger age range of swimmers. All of these events promise to create even more economic activity beyond the support of the facility.

josephdavis

Facilities like those found at MoCo's big pools and parks drive property values up county-wide. When we limit ourselves to very short-term thinking, we lose big opportunities in the medium- and long-term.

matts853

So is the new plan just a plan to write a new plan? Need more info please.

mark_murr1

Aldermen Phil Dacey and Josh Bokee and Alderwoman Kelly Russell need to remember that they are in an elected position and the voters will have a chance to weigh in on their lack of vision next election cycle.

Fredmd21704

Money that could have been used elsewhere, but lets just keep raising those taxes, shall we?

Ellenatodd

Thanks for the update FNP, but little new info here. How about publishing a layout, artistic renditions, pie chart of projected costs, web link to city site, etc. Otherwise, appreciate Aldermen working to move this forward. More parks (and wooded recreational areas) desperately needed!

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