Caro­line’s first vis­i­tor cen­ter opens

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­

DEN­TON — Al­most a year to the day af­ter Gov. Larry Ho­gan helped break ground for the Crouse Park Vis­i­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter in Den­ton, he came back Wed­nes­day, June 28, to cut the rib­bon for its grand open­ing.

The 2,500-square foot, $2.1 mil­lion build­ing, over­look­ing the Chop­tank River, is Caro­line County’s first vis­i­tor cen­ter.

Paid for largely by fed­eral and state grants, and owned and op­er­ated by the Town of Den­ton, it will serve as “the north­ern gate­way for visi­tors,” said Den­ton Town Man­ager Don Mul­rine.

The cen­ter will of­fer not

only town, county and re­gional tourism in­for­ma­tion, but also his­tor­i­cal ex­hibits, cov­er­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans, the Un­der­ground Rail­road, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay ecosys­tem and the Civil War, among other top­ics.

The re­vamped park sur­round­ing the cen­ter will fea­ture a na­ture trail, chil­dren’s play area, rain gar­den, na­tive plants and river ac­cess for wa­ter sports.

Though con­struc­tion on the cen­ter took a rel­a­tively short time — the first pil­ing was driven into the ground about nine months ago — the rest of the process to build it be­gan 15 years, seven months and 27 days ear­lier, said J.O.K. Walsh, chair­man of the Den­ton De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, the all-vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion that led the ef­fort.

“But who’s count­ing?” he said with a laugh.

Walsh joked he had not man­aged to make much progress on the pro­posed cen­ter for 14 years un­til Ho­gan showed up.

“He came a year ago, stuck a shovel in the ground, and it’s here,” Walsh said.

Many of the com­ments lead­ing up to the rib­bon-cut­ting cel­e­brated ev­ery­one — vol­un­teers and elected of­fi­cials alike, at both the lo­cal and state lev­els — who had a hand in mak­ing the vis­i­tor cen­ter a re­al­ity.

Ham­pered for years by fund­ing and per­mit­ting is­sues, the project stalled com­pletely dur­ing for­mer Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley’s eight years in of­fice, Ho­gan said. But when he took of­fice, he said, he made sure the project not only got back on track, it got fast­tracked.

“We all (at the state level) jumped in and worked with the town and leg­is­la­tors to make it pos­si­ble to of­fi­cially open to­day,” Ho­gan said.

The open­ing of this vis­i­tor cen­ter is just one step in a plan to re­vi­tal­ize down­town ar­eas around the state, Ho­gan said.

“This is an im­por­tant eco­nomic boon, by en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to visit Den­ton, Caro­line County and the re­gion,” Ho­gan said.

Den­ton Mayor Abby McNinch said she was in­volved per­son­ally in the project for 10 years, ini­tially as a project man­ager with the Den­ton De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

“J.O.K. and the DDC are the re­lent­less he­roes of this project,” McNinch said. “It has lit­er­ally taken blood, sweat and tears to com­plete.”

Res­i­dents should be proud of the vis­i­tor cen­ter, McNinch said.

“I hope that not only tourists, but also our own com­mu­nity fre­quents and en­joys it,” McNinch said.

Walsh rec­og­nized Mul­rine for all of his work re­lated to in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning, per­mit up­dat­ing, se­cur­ing fund­ing and man­ag­ing the bid­ding and con­struc­tion; and the Den­ton Town Coun­cil for all the hours and money it put into see­ing the process through.

The cer­e­mony had opened with a mo­ment of si­lence in mem­ory of Robert Clen­daniel, for­mer Den­ton mayor and town coun­cil­man, who passed away less than a week be­fore the rib­bon-cut­ting. His fam­ily was pre­sented with a memo­rial trib­ute rec­og­niz­ing his work for the town.

“They al­ways stayed the course,” Walsh said of the town’s staff and elected of­fi­cials.

Richard Col­burn, a for­mer state se­na­tor, was key while in of­fice, set­ting up meet­ings with state of­fi­cials, Walsh said. When Col­burn left of­fice, Jean­nie Had­daway-Ric­cio, then a del­e­gate, took over, he said.

Walsh also rec­og­nized the con­tri­bu­tions of the Caro­line Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, the Caro­line Of­fice of Tourism and the Caro­line County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

The project also had a lot of moral sup­port­ers, Walsh said. One of the big­gest was his late mother, Mary Ann Walsh.

In her mem­ory, Walsh and his brother, Q.R. Walsh, do­nated $10,000 for fur­ther im­prove­ments to the vis­i­tor cen­ter.

The his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety also do­nated $2,500 for im­prove­ments.

“This took a lot of years, and a lot of peo­ple,” Walsh said. “The gov­er­nor pulled off a mir­a­cle here by help­ing us with this.”

To thank Ho­gan for all his work hack­ing through “red tape” to make the vis­i­tor cen­ter a re­al­ity, he was gifted a cus­tom ax, cour­tesy of Lorry In­dus­tries in Den­ton.

“This is go­ing in my of­fice,” Ho­gan said.


The 2,500-square-foot Crouse Park Vis­i­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter in Den­ton cel­e­brated its of­fi­cial grand open­ing with a rib­bon-cut­ting Wed­nes­day, June 28, at­tended by state and lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Gov. Larry Ho­gan.


Gov. Larry Ho­gan, cen­ter, joined state and lo­cal elected of­fi­cials Wed­nes­day, June 28, for the rib­bon-cut­ting and of­fi­cial open­ing of the Crouse Park Vis­i­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter in Den­ton, Caro­line County’s first vis­i­tor cen­ter.


The decks sur­round­ing the Crouse Park Vis­i­tor and Her­itage Cen­ter of­fer beau­ti­ful views of the Chop­tank River.

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