On Monday, construction began on Angel Park, a community-initiated project to create $1.5 million all-inclusive playground and amphitheater designed to be the most accessible playground in the Nottingham area for children with special needs. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz joined a crowd of community supporters and state and Baltimore County officials in breaking ground to mark the official start of construction of the new park, located next to the Perry Hall Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.
The project was conceived and majority-funded by the community through private donations and fundraising. Kelli and Andy Szczybor were inspired to create Angel Park in memory of their son Ryan, who died as a baby. “When you lose a child, you are just looking for something to help them live on and to help your family to heal,” said Angel Park co-founder Kelli Szczybor. The Szczybor family participated in the construction of Annie’s Playground in Harford County and found that to be a healing experience that they wanted to emulate for the Perry Hall community. “We want to do it right and have worked really hard to include everybody’s ideas and harness the energy of the whole community,” Szczybor said.
Angel Park will be Baltimore County’s largest all-inclusive playground specifically designed to accommodate children with special needs by eliminating physical and social barriers to inclusion – and, the group believes, the largest in the whole U.S.
“It’s extraordinary for community members to contribute so much time and effort to a project such as this, and the people of Perry Hall should be incredibly proud – they saw a need, came up with a plan, and they continue to put in the work to provide this remarkable gift to their community, a gift that will improve the quality of life in Perry Hall for generations to come,” Kamenetz said. “This new park will give all children in the area the opportunity to unplug, connect with nature, grow their imaginations, get fit and experience the benefits to body, mind and spirit that come from playing outdoors.”
“When Baltimore County received this acreage next to the library in 2012, our office created a committee to create a sign for the property,” said 5th District Councilman David Marks. “The idea of Angel Park was born, and it is coming to fruition thanks to a partnership between the public sector, private companies, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers.”
Designed by Kids for Kids
The playground design itself was generated with input from 4,500 pre-K through 5th graders from the Perry Hall area. The Angel Park group talked to all 4,500 “student designers” within a two-day period from nine local schools including: Perry Hall Elementary School, Joppa View Elementary School, Chapel Hill Elementary School, Gunpowder Elementary School, Seven Oaks Elementary School, Kingsville Elementary School, St. Joseph School in Fullerton, Perry Hall Christian, and Perry Hall Children’s Center.
The park will include a wheelchair-accessible “shaky bridge,” a Braille panel, therapeutic swings, 30-foot accessible zip lines, as well as quiet spaces for children with autism and other conditions. The storybook theme includes a fire truck, pirate ship, castle, music stations, and a treehouse. Local elements include a seafood store, a Terps turtle, Police station, ice cream shop and more.
Funding for Angel Park
This groundbreaking is the culmination of two years of energetic fundraising by hundreds of volunteers from the Perry Hall Recreation Council. So far there are more than 200 donors at varying levels in the community, including sponsorships from corporations, local restaurants, and individuals as well as government grants. To date, the group is still raising funds and needs approximately $200,000 more to construct everything they would like to include in the project.
Baltimore County Government is contributing a $250,000 grant from capital funds, and bond bills are pending in the General Assembly for a total of $200,000. State Senator Kathy Klausmeier said, “I was happy to sponsor state grant funding to help make Angel Park a dream come true for kids and families in the Perry Hall area and beyond.”
Some of the major private sponsors include:
Baltimore County Savings Bank – founding sponsor
Platinum Sponsors (over $50,000)
The Cole Foundation – sponsoring the amphitheater
Rosedale Federal – sponsoring the memorial garden
Two anonymous community donors – sponsoring the poured rubber surfacing and the picnic pavilion
Gold Sponsors ($25,000 – $50,000)
Whiting-Turner Contracting Company
Wirtz & Daughters – providing all hardscaping & pavers for the site
St. Joseph Fullerton School and Parish
Community Volunteers to Build the Park
The playground construction itself will be done almost entirely by the Perry Hall Recreation Council’s community volunteers on County-owned land leased to the park, and to be turned back over to the County for continuing maintenance.
The Angel Park founders are seeking volunteers from the community to do the hands-on construction during a planned ten-day community build period from July 8 through 17. Thousands of volunteers are being sought by the Perry Hall Recreation Council, with information available online at the Angel Park website, www.angel-park.org.
“This a one-of-a-kind experience to work side by side with strangers to help create an amazing community resource for kids with special needs to be able to play with their friends and families,” Szczybor said.