Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Clarksburg wants carousel from Wheaton

Park official say years of planning are needed to prepare for the move

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Gazette file photo
Children ride the carousel at Wheaton Regional Park. Clarksburg residents want the carousel to be moved to its permanent home at Ovid Hazen Wells Recreational Park much sooner than 2015, as planned.
Clarksburg residents have collected 200 signatures asking the county Park and Planning Commission to move a historic carousel from Wheaton Regional Park to Ovid Hazen Wells Recreational Park in Clarksburg as soon as possible, not in 2015 as park officials now plan.

As part of the agreement signed when the Ovid Hazen Wells farm was deeded to the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission, the Herschell-Spillman carousel was temporarily placed in the Wheaton park until the Clarksburg park was built.

The agreement stipulated that the carousel would be placed in the park when there were enough residents in the area to support it, said Karen Warnick, the regional operations manager for the enterprise division of the Park and Planning Commission’s Department of Parks.

‘‘I understand their desire,” Warnick said. ‘‘It is in our game plan and at the top of our list. We know the carousel will be moving.”

However, facility planning for moving the carousel will not begin until late 2012, she said. The 18-month planning process will include creating a design and estimating the cost for the move, Warnick said. Amenities such as restrooms and additional play equipment will need to be built to support the move, she said.

Many upcounty residents expected the carousel by 2010 and think the population is large enough to support the carousel now.

Pat Tregoning, 74, of Germantown, who knew the late Hallie and Ovid Hazen Wells, has been involved in the petition effort.

‘‘They gave this land to Park and Planning and it is worth millions of dollars,” she said. ‘‘If Park and Planning can’t move the carousel out here, they have got a real problem. I consider it a jewel.”

Bringing the carousel to Clarksburg is important because there are not a lot of activities in the town, Tregoning said. She does not think Park and Planning will bring the carousel soon unless residents hound the agency.

‘‘I want the carousel out here and I don’t want it tomorrow,” Tregoning said. ‘‘I want it today. I want to see it happen.”

Kathie Hulley, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association, was one of the people that started the petition drive, which circulated throughout the local area in the past couple months.

‘‘It gets the awareness out there that people should get behind moving it,” she said. ‘‘I understand there are budget crunches, but they assumed the responsibility for bringing it when there are enough people.”

Hallie Wells donated 290 acres of the family farm in memory of her late husband, Ovid Hazen Wells, in 1981. As a condition for donating the land, she asked that the Park and Planning Commission buy the carousel from her nephew, Jim Wells, to place in the park. The carousel, which features 33 rare wooden horse figures, used to be at the Smithsonian.

The antique Herschell-Spillman carousel was carved between 1906 and 1922.

Wheaton residents formed a group in 1998 to pay for its restoration by Carrousel Consultants of Spokane, Wash. County officials have said they will try to find a replacement carousel for Wheaton.

Kathleen Mitchell, the Clarksburg ombudsman, understands residents want to start the lengthy process now instead of waiting.

‘‘It is something that they really want,” Mitchell said. ‘‘It would be a fun, wonderful addition to the community.”

But the community should understand that the county cannot bring something that will attract so many visitors without proper planning, she said.

‘‘There is a lot of planning that goes into it,” Mitchell said. ‘‘There has to be an area planned and built around it and there has to be parking for people who come to it. That is the whole process in and of itself.”

Ovid Hazen Wells Park now has three shelters, a playground, two soccer fields, one baseball field and two softball fields, Warnick said. There is no water or electricity at the park, she said.