In­dian Head of­fi­cials pleased ‘streetscape’ named a pri­or­ity

Plan noted as ‘start­ing point’ for town’s re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

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.

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