Plan calls for no new fields at Whitemarsh in Bowie
New proposal suggests adding 108 parking spaces at site
The latest recommendations for improvements at Bowie's Whitemarsh Park include another 108 parking spaces but do not include adding more ball fields, according to a draft concept plan presented to the City Council Monday night.
Under the plan, the "city would not get expanded facilities," said Elizabeth Lardner with Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects, hired by the city to help develop a master plan for the site.
Lardner said additional fields could not be built without cutting down trees that cover nearly three-quarters of the park, incurring costs to replace them elsewhere.
Additional traffic generated by more fields would also aggravate the current lack of easy access off Route 301, a divided highway without a traffic light or cross road at the park entrance, and state money to upgrade the intersection is not coming anytime soon, she said.
"We can't justify increasing the program because of the economic and environmental costs," said Lardner, who recommended that the city look at sites other than Whitemarsh if it wants to expand sports programs.
There are currently 562 parking spaces at Whitemarsh Park and the concept plan calls for 670, Lardner said.
The concept plan, which is essentially a rearrangement of existing fields and facilities, would locate about 100 parking spaces near the Bowie Playhouse, which shares the park with Sport Fit, a private fitness center.
Sport Fit has a lease to rent space in the park for its indoor facilities through 2035, with two 10-year options to renew, said City Manager David Deutsch. The company pays Bowie $40,300 per year for the space.
There are currently no designated parking spaces for particular tenants, and there are none in the concept plan either, Lardner said.
Councilman James Marcos questioned a plan to relocate the existing baseball field as part of the city's goal to make Whitemarsh Park a center for Bowie football and lacrosse teams.
Reno said the field would not be moved until a new site is found, and the existing lights on that field at Whitemarsh would remain.
The concept plan also calls for permanent restrooms, something the park currently does not have.
After listening to the presentation, City Council members said they want planners to consider adding a structure to store sports equipment, with a possible press box on top.
In the meantime, they also plan to talk to local legislators about getting state money to make temporary road improvements at the entrance.
After incorporating council suggestions, a public meeting will be scheduled about the proposed changes, said Matt Reno, project/facility manger with the Department of Community Services.
Meanwhile, plans are still on track to replace the existing football field with a $1 million artificial turf field, a plan supported by Bowie lacrosse teams, who said at the Monday meeting their teams are "exploding" with new members.
"The second turf field in Bowie will bring more opportunities for youth sports and make Whitemarsh useful year-round rather than having some of the fields some of the time," said Steve Kuciemba, a coach with the Bowie Boys and Girls Club lacrosse teams.
Assuming the council approves another half million dollars for construction in the upcoming city budget, the turf field could open by early fall of 2012, Reno said.