Open Space Law Change Could Impact County

SNOW HILL – Under a new state law Worcester County must spend $337,000 in Program Open Space (POS) funds to acquire new parkland.

The recent legislation requires Maryland counties that have reached their acquisition goal to spend 25 percent of their POS funding on purchasing parkland, starting in fiscal year (FY) 2008.

Worcester County has far exceeded the state goal, with over six times as much land purchased for parkland as the state requires. Each county must provide 30 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. Worcester County has 196 acres for every 1,000 residents.

“I’m really proud of Worcester County for having the foresight to provide 196 acres per 1,000 people in park and recreation land,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

Recreation and Parks Director Sharon Reilly said the county is always on the lookout for possible park acquisitions.

“There is always the opportunity for additional parkland within the county for citizens to be using,” said Reilly.

The county’s FY 2008 POS allocation totals $1.3 million, nearly a record amount.

“This is the second highest allocation our county has seen for Program Open Space,” Reilly said.

The county has already determined the amount of POS funding to be distributed to the municipalities: $162,000 for Ocean City and $81,000 each for Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke City. The county will make sure the towns comply with the acquisition rule.

Worcester County has $607,000 for development and $337,000 to purchase land.

“I think there’s some land out there we could really look into getting which might make a very good passive park,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

The property she has in mind in Bishopville would only be available by kayak or canoe, she said.

Gulyas declined to give more details about the parcel.

The site of a burned down house near the Route 50 bridge in Ocean City would make a great extension of the ‘Welcome to Ocean City” park at the foot of the span, Gulyas said.

“The more open space the better,” said Gulyas. “We can always use a couple of ball fields or tennis courts.”

Boggs said it’s critical “to make people aware there is parkland available.”

The recreation and parks department said this week it plans to purchase an inflatable, portable movie screen to show family films in the local parks and during county events.

“I’d loved to see Showell Park utilized more. I’m really excited about the inflatable movie screen,” said Boggs.