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NOW YOU KNOW: Supporting Open Space and Responsible Park Usage

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The following is an update from Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki.

In May, we strongly urged the Baltimore County Council via written testimony to support Resolution No. 33-24 – Reclassification of County-Owned Land as Public Parkland – Perry Hall and Carney Areas. This legislation was brought forward by Councilman David Marks, and we supported his efforts alongside bipartisan colleagues from District 8. The land is already owned by Baltimore County, and reclassifying this land comes at no additional cost to the taxpayers except for potential signage.

As representatives of eastern Baltimore County, we are committed to the environmental well-being of our community. Expanding the amount of protected open space will improve the quality of life for our constituents. Designating this area for additional parkland is a welcome breath of fresh air to areas plagued with overdevelopment and overcrowding. These 65 acres will be preserved from the swarms of new apartments and other housing units popping up across the area.

We are very pleased that the County Council passed the resolution, and we look forward to the creation of a new park and expanded parks throughout the area. Specifically:

  • A new 14-acre Seven Oaks Park north of the Seven Oaks Senior Center;
  • About 28 acres of land north of the Honeygo Village Center would be added to Honeygo Regional Park;
  • Extension of Indian Rock Park from its current terminus at Silver Spring Road along Perry Hall Boulevard near Beaconsfield Road, creating 23 acres of parkland and
  • Creation of Jennifer Run Park in Carney north and west of the Park-and-Ride at Jomat Avenue (about four acres).

This is welcome news as we continue to hear constituents complain about the overcrowded and overdeveloped landscape of eastern Baltimore County. Unfortunately, after all our hard work to support Councilman David Marks and Councilman Wade Kach and encourage the passage of the updates to the adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO), Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski vetoed it. The updates to the APFO found in the bipartisan legislation would have considered school overcrowding prior to development. Not only are schools facing overcrowding, but so are all our community parks.

We met with Gunpowder Falls State Park’s leadership, who shared that the park’s visitation numbers have doubled since COVID-19 and are not relenting. However, the staffing has not increased. There are only 15 full-time staff members at Gunpowder State Park across the entire park. The staff cannot keep up with the amount of trash left behind. That is precisely why the parking lot and park access off Jones Road were closed. For example, 21,000 pounds of trash was collected in the summer of 2013 at this location, and new user groups coming to the park are not following regulations.

Park leadership shared with us that they have critical funding needs, such as infrastructure updates, and they are unable to hire more staff. For example, the Hammerman Area of the Gunpowder State Park at the end of Ebenezer Road has restrooms that date back to 1961 and need significant updates. Our offices have also received numerous complaints from residents along Notchcliff Road in Glen Arm on the other side of District 7A. Beginning at Harford Road and running adjacent to the Gunpowder River to Glen Arm Road, there is a tremendous amount of illegal parking. The rampant illegal parking on Notchcliff Road is a nuisance and a significant safety hazard. Our constituents have reported that individuals, including non-residents of Baltimore County, are using the Gunpowder River as a public beach with bonfires and parties. This area is designed as a nature trail and fishing spot but has experienced a surge in illegal parking along Notchcliff Road.

In a formal letter, we requested the Baltimore County Department of Public Works install clear signage in both English and Spanish (No Parking—Tow Away Zone) along the entire two-mile stretch of Notchcliff Road to deter illegal parking. We also suggested that white lines be painted along the sides of the road and that a towing policy be implemented for violators.

Just this week, Delegate Nawrocki participated in a ride-along with the Baltimore Environmental Police at the Loch Raven Reservoir. Officials at that location also shared concerns about trash disposal and the lack of community respect for park regulations. For instance, Delegate Nawrocki watched the police inform multiple visitors not to swim in the reservoir. There were also discussions about the need for those to fish responsibly with the appropriate fishing license. While we applaud the use of parks and nature spaces across District 7A, the parks must be used responsibly.

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