By Jillian Amodio
For years, signs marking the future site of a proposed 20-home subdivision stood posted near the Deale Public Library. For almost as long as the signs have been there, so too has there been talk amongst concerned community members wanting to see the property used in a manner that would benefit the community of Deale as a whole. Now, they’ll get their wish.
According to Rick Anthony, Director of Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, the land was originally part of the Small Area Plan proposed over 15 years ago. “The land was designated to be a small town center, but with land rights and things like that it was more advantageous to the owner to sell it to developers for housing,” Anthony says.
Ultimately Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman was able to negotiate with the landowner to purchase the property. “Small Area Plans have been historically ignored by administrations for years,” he says. “I have a firm belief that the success of government is based on the health and well-being of our residents. Maintaining open space is not only fiscally responsible, but also benefits the overall health and wellness of our community and its residents.”
County Councilmember Jessica Haire, who represents District 7 which includes Deale, says “every community needs a place where kids and adults can come together for safe outdoor recreation. We hope that this can be a model for other communities to follow. You don’t need a ton of space to make an impact. The pandemic has shown us even more how important it is to have accessible outdoor space.”
About two years ago at a budget town hall meeting with Pittman and Haire, residents showed up in droves to ensure that their voices were heard in regards to what would happen with the property. Ashley Hangliter was one of those residents.
Hangliter is a lifelong South County resident and business owner, operating Anchored Inn Hotel and the Boathouse in Deale with her father Jim Weaver. She is also a member of the citizens advisory committee coordinated specifically to turn the site into a public park.
Hangliter will assist in developing the Deale Community Park proposal, honoring what she says is the South County community’s need for green space. “We don’t have a park like Quiet Waters or Dunkirk, so we are really excited to see this come to life. We live in a beautiful area but we do not have sidewalks or a great outdoor community space.”
Upcoming committee meetings will focus on finalizing plans for what the park will look like. Tentative plans include utilizing an existing old barn structure as part of a frame for an amphitheater as well as a perimeter trail, a dog park, and playground.
Hangliter reports that nearly $50,000 has been raised from the annual Smokin’ on the Creek BBQ festivals. Even with the 2020 festival canceled, these funds, and future funds raised will help support the completion of the project as well as any maintenance and other future projects designed to benefit South County.
“It’s great to see this coming to fruition,” adds Haire. “It’s inspirational in the sense that the community has come together to have their voices heard. This is exactly the way that local government is supposed to work. It is triumph through the use of community voices.”