Indian Head officials pleased ‘streetscape’ named a priority
Plan noted as ‘starting point’ for town’s revitalization efforts
The Town of Indian Head is in major need of revitalization. Officials from both the town and the Charles County government have acknowledged the current state of the town.
Although it will not fix everything, help may soon be on the way from the state level if Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn fulfills a request on the transportation letter sent to him by Charles County’s Board of Commissioners.
In the letter drafted by the commissioners and sent to Rahn, the Indian Head “streetscape” project is included.
The project, originally proposed by Economic Development Consultant Gary Hodge, aims to “beautify” and develop the 2 miles between Naval Support Facility Indian Head and General Smallwood Elementary School on Route 210.
It is encouraging, Hodge said, to see the project he originally proposed included on the letter.
“I’m very pleased to see the commissioners acknowledge the importance of that priority and the Indian Head revitalization strategy,” Hodge said.
The letter says because the 2 mile section of land between the base and the school are the first thing visitors see, that area serves as a “gateway” into Indian Head. The town and the county would like to include things such as bike paths, new tree growth, improved medians, pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks along the area. The goal is to create a “boulevard effect” the letter says.
Charles County Commissioners’ Vice President Debra Davis (D), who has been a proponent for Indian Head’s revitalization in the past, said she was pleased to see the streetscape in the letter.
Transportation is a large concern for her, she said, and she hopes the county can improve upon it. The streetscape can be part of that improvement, she said.
“I’m encouraged by it,” Davis said. “That’s the first step to getting anything done, or getting any state assistance — getting it on the priority list.”
Davis said the streetscape is just one part of the revitalization strategy, but it is a start. She said the county’s pitch is that the streetscape will make Indian Head more welcoming, which could boost its traffic and help the economy.
Whether the streetscape is a transportation issue remains to be seen, Davis said, but the county will look for state help with the funding of it regardless of what it falls under.
Indian Head Mayor Brandon Paulin said the town has heard from the state on the streetscape initiative and is encouraged by the small conversation they had.
“We got word back from the state level about potentially scheduling a meeting to potentially talk about that project,” Paulin said. “It has some nice support behind it.”
Paulin said just knowing the state saw the request and knowing state officials want to meet over the project is a good sign. The streetscape can make Indian Head feel like more of a “small town,” he said. The town’s walkability is going to be important going forward, Paulin said, and the streetscape could help provide more walkability to residents and visitors.
County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said the Indian Head area is one that has long needed to be revitalized and is a county priority, so including the streetscape was necessary.
Focusing on redevelopment is going to be important for the county going forward, Robinson said. Redeveloping the U.S. 301 corridor is going to be “extremely” important, he said, and it was also included on the county’s transportation priorities.
For Indian Head, Robinson said, there are a lot of tired strip malls that need redevelopment to keep up with current times. Indian Head is in dire need for redevelopment, he said, with boarded-up stores and other abandoned areas.
“I think that’s what our priority should be all over the county,” Robinson said. “To beautify what has been damaged. There’s a lot of opportunity for redevelopment in Charles County.”
The county will do what it can to help the town out, Robinson said. Most of what they can do will be determined during the county’s budget season as the county shapes out its priorities. The county will have its first budget work session on April 19 and will be reviewing both the operating and capital budget schedule in the coming weeks.
Despite having a piece of the revitalization strategy included in the letter, Hodge said the county and Indian Head are “not all the way there yet.”
“We had three or four things that we wanted the county to play a major role in,” Hodge said.
Along with the streetscape project, Hodge also requested the county contribute $500,000 for a fiber optic cable line through the town and a riverwalk for the Potomac River watershed in the town.
Still, Hodge said, progress is progress and the streetscape’s inclusion is essential moving forward.
“We’re on track to get the streetscape project and the first step was to get that on the list to got to the state,” Hodge said.