Proposed rec/indoor aquatic center in Clarksburg would be first in county -- Gazette.Net


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The Clarksburg area is slated to become the location for the county’s first combined regional recreation and aquatic center, according to the county’s Department of Recreation.

“It would serve the heart of Clarksburg but also reach out to communities north and west of Clarksburg,” said Jeff Bourne, division chief for the department’s facilities.

One possible site for the complex could be inside the 290-acre Ovid Hazen Wells park off Skylark Road in Clarksburg, or it could also be built somewhere else in the area, he said.

“This is very preliminary work,” said Bourne, who is coordinating his department’s search for a site with Montgomery Parks, the division of Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission that oversees parks.

Montgomery Parks is currently accepting public input on ideas as part of updating the 1995 Ovid Hazen Wells park master plan.

Planners expect to answer questions at the annual Kites Over Clarksburg family day at the park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Bourne said the idea of combining a rec center and swimming pools into one complex will lower operating expenses through the shared use of utilities, parking lots, fitness rooms and maintenance costs.

“We can bring together all of that in one location,” he said.

There is $64,000 in the county’s proposed fiscal 2015 Capital Improvement Plan for various site selection studies, including a recreational-aquatic center and library in Clarksburg, he said.

There is also $647,000 in planning money in the budget for unspecified projects around the county, he said. So far there are no preliminary estimates for construction and operating costs.

“We’ve not done this process before for this kind of facility,” Bourne said.

Lynn Fantle, planning chairwoman for the Clarksburg Civic Association, said a regional center would benefit fast-growing Clarksburg, which is woefully short of recreational facilities. The town center, Clarksburg Village and Arora Hills neighborhoods have homeowner association pools, but there are dozens of other neighborhoods that don’t, she said.

Clarksburg residents can use the Germantown Indoor Swimming Facility in Boyds, but Fantle said the large facility is busy, with parents sometimes having to show up at 6:30 a.m. to book swim time for their children, she said.

A regional center should give Clarksburg residents first dibs on recreational programs and classes or alternatively, Clarksburg should get its own would local rec center, which it currently doesn’t have, Fantle said.

Whatever happens, officials should comply with the wishes of Ovid and Hallie Wells, who deeded the park to Montgomery Parks in 1981, Fantle said.

“The land and improvements hereby conveyed shall be used as open space, for parkland, and/or for recreation in such manner as to evidence the conservation of soil, water, wood and wildlife, and to that end, shall be so maintained,” according to the deed.

Trending to regional

Building a regional facility to serve Clarksburg is a response to the area’s growing population, which is now at 20,000 and expected to grow to 40,000 when current development plans are realized.

The recreational center part of the complex would be similar in function to the 21 other rec centers in the county but the building would be larger according to a new center model, Bourne said.

The Department of Recreation’s idea is to move away from building more local community centers and instead build regional centers in four “nodes” — Silver Spring, White Flint, Shady Grove and Clarksburg — along the Interstate 270 and Md. 355 corridor.

In the next 20 years, most of the county’s growth is expected to take place along the corridors, where residents are also presently underserved by recreational facilities, he said.

“It’s the fastest-growing area of the county, and it’s also currently the lowest-served population because of the existing large population,” Bourne said.

The regional centers would be about 8,000 square feet larger than existing rec centers, with a larger fitness room, social hall and community lounge.

They would also feature multi-purpose rooms that could be adapted to serve seniors, adult classes and after-school programs.

“It’s like constructing multi-purpose boxes,” Bourne said.

Also included would be commercial kitchens to cook for senior and after-school programs.

Locating in the I-270/Md. 355 corridor from Silver Spring to Clarksburg will also encourage access to the facilities via public transportation, which is expected to expand in the corridor, Bourne said.

Montgomery Parks planners expect to present recommendations to the county Planning Board in July, followed by a public hearing in September.

For more information, visit montgomeryparks.org and search for “ovid master plan update.”

vterhune@gazette.net