Rules for parkland slightly shift plan for training facility in Frederick park

Rules regulating the use of parkland will require a slight change to plans for a federal facility planned for Frederick’s Westside Regional Park.

The city and the National Park Service had long planned to build a new site for the park service’s Historic Preservation Training Center to move from its site in downtown Frederick to a new expanded location in the park.

The plan had been for the city to sell about eight acres to the Park Service to the west of the historic Hargett Farm farmstead along Butterfly Lane near the city’s Hillcrest neighborhood.

But state Project Open Space easements on part of the site prevent the training center from being on that section of the property.

Project Open Space limits the use of its easements to open areas such as parks, forests, and wildlife management areas, or community amenities such as playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts, pools, fishing or hunting sites, and hiking trails.

The city thought it could shift the easements to another part of the park, but in discussions with the state, it found that it was not possible, Marc DeOcampo, director of strategic planning and executive projects for the city, said Monday.

Instead, the plan will shift the Park Service facility to the east side of the farmstead, between Butterfly Lane and Contender Way and near the park’s Sophie and Madigan’s Playground.

The Project Open Space easements to the west could be used for any type of recreational space, including possibly a Little League field to replace one in Frederick’s Baker Park that was damaged by flooding several years ago, DeOcampo said.

The city’s mayor and aldermen approved a resolution supporting the change at their meeting Thursday.

Under the updated proposal, the city will sell about 10 acres in the park to the Park Service, including buildings on the farmstead, for $1 million, which the city would use for recreational amenities and improvements to the park.

The farmstead buildings would be available to the city after hours and on weekends for community meeting space. A dairy barn on the property would be rehabilitated and used by the city and Park Service as an events space to highlight the property’s agricultural history.

The Project Open Space easements also complicated plans by the city and county to put a new library in the park near Butterfly Ridge Elementary School.

Instead, the new Westside Branch Library could go on the current site of the city’s Hillcrest Park, although that proposal would need to be approved by the aldermen.

The Park Service’s training center is currently on Commerce Street in downtown Frederick, where it has been since 2002.

The center teaches Park Service workers the philosophy of preservation, as well as building crafts, technology, and project management skills.

Purchasing the land to build the Park Service training center in the park would require congressional approval, according to a report prepared by the city’s staff for Thursday’s meeting.

Congress passed legislation in 2022 authorizing the purchase, but a federal budget allocation for the project is still pending, according to the staff report.

Alderman Kelly Russell said at Thursday’s meeting that the center provides valuable skills, and she hopes the new facility can lead to a partnership with Frederick County Public Schools to get young people interested in the trades it provides.

“I think this is such an awesome opportunity to carry on these trades,” Russell said. “We have a large historic district. We need people to maintain it.”