Flattops could soon be ‘enhanced’ as a 34-acre ‘passive park’
Recreation and parks explores improvements
Thirty-four acres of open space at the old Lexington Manor neighborhood on Coral Drive, once known as the Flattops, could soon be beautified and developed into a passive park.
The parcel, which totals 84 acres and was purchased for $6.5 million by the county in 2004, has remained vacant after a previous board of county commissioners decided against redeveloping the land due to its position in the AICUZ, or Air Installation Compatible Use Zone, which limits high-density development.
Since then, the northern section of the old Lexington Park neighborhood, adjacent to Lancaster Park, has been utilized for the county’s first cherry blossom festival, fun run events
and the county’s annual Juneteenth celebration. There is also a disc golf course there.
The St. Mary’s County Recreation and Parks Department is working with the county’s economic development department, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions, the sheriff’s office, the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation and other stakeholders to “enhance that area” and create “a passive, walking trail, running type of park,” Arthur Shepherd, director of recreation and parks, told the commissioners in October.
Currently, the parcel includes trails and around 150 cherry blossom trees, but Shepherd wants to see a lighted pedestrian and bike trail “from Willows Road almost to Gate 2” of the base, as well as cleared trees and vegetation to create “clear sight lines through the property,” he said.
With a concept site plan anticipated next spring, other improvements will most likely be made to the site, including asphalt overlay, minimization of traffic south of Lei Drive near Three Oaks Center, and possibly more parking space. The county has budgeted $75,000 this year to pave the road, parking lot and sidewalks around the nearby U.S. Colored Troops Interpretive Center.
With the land’s proximity to Lancaster Park, Shepherd anticipates “families
who use Lancaster Park during the day” could move to the passive park after Lancaster fills with “cars and sports activity” in the evening, to enjoy “the same type of passive recreation — walking, pets, strollers, carriages, trail running,” he said.
The county plans to engage regional artists in the design plan to drive home the concept of an art park, and the improvements are intended to open the area up for festivals and events, although density in the area is restricted by the proximity of the Navy base.
No more than 50 people per acre are allowed to congregate in the area under AICUZ designation. Recreation and parks would need permission from NAS Pax River for larger events, but so far “they’ve been receptive and supportive” of the project, Viki Volk, director of the Community Development Corp., said.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) likened the concept for the open space to Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Calvert, and said “I like it, good idea.”
“The more we can do to find ways to promote economic development down there … will afford us a good opportunity to tie the development districts of Lexington Park and Leonardtown in a more synergistic manner,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said.
“The ability to draw in more millennials who want a more urban setting than a rural setting could be advantageous to us also,” he added.
If the site plan is approved, the project could begin construction as early as next summer.