CHEVERLY, LANDOVER, UPPER MARLBORO
It was once a weed-choked, unused playground behind an old school occupied these days by a Head Start program.
Now, it's a pristine recreational area with a state-of-the-art basketball court and sparkling play equipment that is about to get another boost thanks to state home buyers.
Cheverly Tuxedo Park at Arbor Street and Belleview Avenue is one of three community parks to benefit from allocations made recently by the state Board of Public Works for expansion and construction of parks in Prince George's County.
The board on Sept. 29 allocated $124,000 for parks in Cheverly, Landover and Upper Marlboro. The parks will be funded through the Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space.
The projects include a $58,000 half-acre expansion of Dodge Park Neighborhood Park in Landover. The expansion area will serve as a buffer between the park in the 7700 block of Prospect Street and an adjacent commercial complex.
The board also allocated $51,000 for the acquisition of 1.88 acres in the 12800 block of Brooke Lane in Upper Marlboro that was part of the Chesapeake Railroad right of way. The newly acquired acreage will be used to develop a trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The trail will extend 1.2 miles from the Prince George's County Equestrian Center to the planned King's Grant Community Park.
The third project will fund additions to Cheverly's Tuxedo Park. The board provided $15,000 for construction of a multi-use playing field, player's benches, bleachers, fencing, a backstop and playground equipment, which will make up the third phase of the park.
The state Board of Public Works is chaired by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and includes Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. The board is empowered by the General Assembly to approve major construction projects and consultant contracts, equipment purchases, property transactions and other projects.
The Program Open Space funds are derived from the state's real estate transfer tax. More than 180,000 acres have been acquired under the program for open space and recreation areas.
The board approved more than $2.3 million for five projects in Montgomery County to acquire five parcels of land that will expand the Upper Paint Branch Stream Valley Park. Those parcels include sites in Colesville, Spencerville and Cloverly.
David Warrington, town administrator for Cheverly, said he filed an application with the state last year seeking Program Open Space funds for the park. Cheverly is one of eight municipalities in Prince George's County that applied directly to the state. Most jurisdictions applied to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for the funds, he said.
Program Open Space allocates Cheverly about $30,000 a year for acquisition and development. The town applied for the funds to upgrade the playground at Judith Hoyer School at Arbor Street and Belleview Avenue, which was abandoned for a while but is now used for a Head Start program, he said.
The building is owned by the Prince George's County school system, but Cheverly offered to pay for renovations in exchange for being granted permission to lease the playground and facilities. Two years ago, the town constructed a basketball court on the property using open space funds. The town put play equipment on the site, which is used by the children at the school.
The playground has been revitalized.
"It has become a local recreation area," Warrington said. "Instead of it being a place that was just there, it's coming back to life."
Plans also call for construction of soccer goals, relocating a pedestrian path and paving and constructing a handrail for the path. Picnic tables have been placed on the site and undergrowth removed.
In the future, landscaping will be added, Warrington said.
Cheverly officials have found the open space money valuable in expanding the community's parks. Last year, using the same funding mechanism, the town acquired three acres from a private owner that added extra woodland to Boyd Park.
A community block grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development paid for construction of a hiker-biker trail, Warrington said.
-- Avis Thomas-Lester
A decade ago, Brookside Park was a crumbling condominium community plagued with crime and vandalism. Roofs leaked, balconies were falling and county inspectors were boarding up units that people had paid thousands of dollars to own.
But on Sept. 25, the condominium owners, property managers and hundreds of children feasted on picnic food, listened to gospel music and held one big block party in celebration of a complex that has undergone a $2 million face lift.
"This was a celebration of a community triumphing over defeat," said Melba Evans, a member of the condominium board of directors that sponsored the event. "Just a few years ago, Brookside was facing certain disaster, but now we are living in a wonderful community that is safe and supportive of growing families."
Stuart Rogal, owner of Rogal Real Estate, acquired the 552-unit complex at 5300 Wilson Bridge Rd. from another property manager about 10 years ago.
With the help of the condominium owners and a big financial investment of his own, things have turned around.
"We came in and with the help of a condominium board that was willing to make tough decisions, we implemented a long-term plan for capital improvements," Rogal said. "We completed all of the roofs, corrected all of the balcony issues and repaved the parking lot and driveways."
Rogal said that in addition to physical improvements to the complex, where people pay about $40,000 for a two-bedroom unit, changes were made to improve the quality of life for all residents.
"We went after delinquent and problem owners. We now use off-duty police officers to patrol the property," Rogal said. "When people have a community that they are proud of, they tend to take better care of it."
From African storytellers to face painting for hundreds of children's faces, there was plenty to do at Brookside during the celebration. Rogal said that in addition to the carnival, the complex has regular events for children throughout the year.
Sylvia Baruch, president of the Brookside Condominium Board, has lived in the complex for 15 years. Baruch said she is glad that her home has been born again. "It's wonderful. There has been a complete change here. We are doing better physically."
-- Hamil R. Harris
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CAPTION: Cheverly's Tuxedo Park will benefit from a Department of Natural Resources' program.
CAPTION: Dodge Park Neighborhood Park, in Landover, will be expanded, creating a buffer between the park and an adjacent commercial complex. The funding is from Program Open Space.