Like many city residents, I received a survey in the mail last month from the city of Frederick's Parks and Recreation Department. I often don’t bother with most surveys I’m asked to complete, but I felt this one was important.
The city wants to ascertain park usage as well as the needs of city residents when it comes to our parks. I commend Deputy Director Bob Smith and staff for engaging the public in this effort. Often this is done through one public meeting that residents must know about in advance and then arrange to attend. I hope the mass mailing resulted in a significantly higher percentage of participation.
The end result will lead to an updated Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The master planning process allows our community to access what assets we currently have, but also what we lack or need in the future. This master plan will delve into park facilities as well as recreation programs and services.
Did you realize that we have 73 parks in Frederick? Most of us could probably name two or three, Baker Park, Mullinix Park and Carroll Creek Linear Park. Or maybe we know the smaller space in our neighborhood. Hopefully, this new master plan will also ensure that some of the amenities that are available at Baker Park or Carroll Creek Linear Park are also available in other parts of the city. Imagine a concert series in a neighborhood park, public art dispersed throughout the city, or a splash pad just down the street from your house.
We seem to concentrate our attention and amenities in the above named locations. In fact, there is an effort underway to place a new splash garden in Baker Park. While I am not opposed to the idea of the splash garden, or the reasoning behind this project, Baker Park is already overdeveloped. I also don’t believe we should pull up green space to replace it with concrete. There are likely better options for such an amenity to be located that might already have the infrastructure, be more accessible and more appropriate.
I also think the Monocacy River is an underutilized asset that is in our backyard. It would be great if the city could provide more access points to put in canoes or kayaks and work with the county to do the same, so that residents and tourists alike could float down the scenic waterway. More guided paddle excursions could also be offered in partnership with local outfitters. Along those lines, it would be nice to see paddle boats available for rental on Culler Lake.
Another thing I would love to see developed in our area is a botanical garden or more nature trails. My wife and I recently traveled to the Wilmington, Delaware, area and were blown away by the number of public gardens. In fact, that area is known as America’s Garden Capital and includes 36 gardens in the greater Philadelphia/Delaware region. It would be great if we could have one.
And lastly, I can envision multiple public art pieces installed in the median along the Golden Mile. All you have to do is travel to Charlottesville to check out their public art trail along busy corridors or even Hagerstown’s Cultural Arts Trail. Doing this would provide access to public art in a more inclusive and equitable way.
The pandemic proved the need for more outdoor space and park amenities. This new master plan is about presenting a vision on what our residents value as well as prioritize improvements for the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what is presented and approved.
Shuan Butcher is a writer, nonprofit professional, event planner and avid traveler who resides in Frederick. He previously served on the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Commission and the City of Frederick Public Art Commission.