James Rada Jr.
Last month, Thurmont opened its skateboard park in town. A year ago, it hadn’t been on anyone’s radar, but a group of Thurmont youth committed themselves to making the project a reality.
So, what can you do if you have a project you want to see: a new park, art installation, playground, or something else in your town? What if you are a Scout looking for approval of your Eagle Project?
“The first thing you should do is make a presentation to your elected officials and back it with a large turnout at the meeting when you make the presentation, and have a petition signed by a lot of people,” said Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird.
You don’t need to be on the agenda. You can sign up to make your initial presentation as public comment. However, be aware there is a time limit for public comment, so you will need to make your initial pitch short. If you back that short presentation with a petition and lots of people in attendance supporting you, it will show the commissioners that residents are interested in the project.
“If the Board likes the idea, then they will either add it to the agenda at an upcoming meeting for more details and approvals or direct staff to work with the person/group on the project,” said Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets.
She added that another option is for the person or group to email the commissioners with their ideas. The commissioners can than decide whether they want to pursue the idea.
Once the interest from town government is sparked in your project, you can do things to help maintain that interest and smooth out any problems that might come up.
Mayor Kinnaird recommends that the person or group needs to commit to making it happen. The Thurmont youth who wanted the skateboard park went out and did fundraising for it and raised a quarter of the costs for the park.
“I’ve seen a lot of people who get a project started,” Kinnaird said. “Then they show up for two meetings, and you never see them again.”
He said over the years, town youth and parents have expressed an interest in having something more in Thurmont for youth to do. However, in those cases, no one took action or committed to making it happen, unlike the group who worked to make the skateboard park a reality.
Another thing to do is watch what is going on with your town government. Sometimes, getting a project moving is all about timing. In the case of the skateboard park, the youth made their presentation at the time when the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners were talking about what projects to include in their Program Open Space proposal.
A final tip is to think about the size of the project. The larger it is, the more levels of government are going to be involved. If the project has a footprint larger than 5,000 sq. ft., the State of Maryland requires a stormwater management plan and an erosion and sediment study. This increases the project cost and how long the project will take. The skateboard park didn’t need this because it was a smaller project and the town already owned the land.
“I think for any project to go quickly is to have the plan set, funding set and open lines of communication with the elected officials and staff,” Willets said.