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Full house hears renovation pitch for Snow Hill’s Sturgis

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Dec. 14, 2017) Representatives of Annapolis-based landscape architects Campion Hruby presented several ambitious renovation concepts for Sturgis Park in Snow Hill at a well-attended public meeting last Tuesday.

Three named proposals were shown, with focuses ranging from ecological to civic, and each was designed to make use of the view of the Pocomoke River, as well as the potential for an excursion train.

According to the presentation, “The Porch welcomes everyone to the park with an open-air covered ‘veranda’ that contains an information center and public restrooms. The train shuttle and local bus stop here to pick-up/drop off visitors.

“The Info House will be a new structure occupying a corner of the library parking lot — complete with restrooms, a snack bar, and visitor information. The train shuttle and local bus will stop on Bank Street to drop off visitors.

“The Welcome Center uses the PNC Bank Building canopy as a covered train shuttle and local bus stop. The building will have visitor information, restrooms, a snack bar, gift shop, and waterside tables and chairs.”

Jack Sullivan, a landscape architect and planner from Campion Hruby, said the renovations were meant to create a tourist attraction without taking away from the small town feel of Snow Hill.

He talked about protecting and enhancing the watershed and making sure any developments did not duplicate services at nearby Byrd Park. Stormwater improvements could be a part of the renovation and some funding could be available from the Department of Natural Resources.

A slide presentation touted several new events at the park, in addition to mainstays such as the 4th of July fireworks, and said a wish list of amenities included a visitor’s center, play area for children, heritage art installation, “restaurant-friendly waterfront” and increased connection to the downtown.

“This idea that you can have the park be public for everybody, that means everybody gets involved and everybody enjoys it,” Sullivan said. “The more people are engaged, the more they’re invested, and the more they’re invested, the better they’re going to take care of that park in the future, and they’re going to take care of each other. It’s just sort of how we work as a society.

Snow Hill Grant Administrator Ann Gibb, who organized the meeting, said a matching operating assistance grant for $30,000 from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development paid for the proposed redesign.

A request for proposals was issued before the town selected Campion Hruby and a previous meeting with the mayor and council was held, Gibb said.

“This meeting was for the public to have a chance to see what they had come up with so far … and get some feedback from the community,” she said. “This is part of the whole process for creating a master plan for Sturgis Park.”

Gibb admitted the plan was ambitious, but said it would be implemented in stages over a period of years.

She said the town previously applied for grants to upgrade the restrooms and install sidewalks to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We applied three different times before to get some money for those things and we didn’t, so we thought maybe a formal plan done by professionals would be better,” she said. “We could send that to the state and see if they would help us that way.”

Gibb said the next step would be to analyze the public feedback and schedule another meeting with the mayor and council to discuss the plan. That meeting likely would take place in January.

“We cannot do it all at once – it’s much too big,” Gibb said of development at the park. “Gradually, over the years, we would be able to add different features and upgrade the park.

“The park is not quite 40 years old, but it’s not very exciting – it’s kinda boring, so why would you want to go down there?” Gibb added. “We want to make you want to go down there.”

She said she was very happy with how the presentation turned out.

“We had a good crowd – we had 43 people,” she said. “It was a nice, full room and they were very enthusiastic. People said this was exciting … I think they were really pleased. Most people seemed really happy at the prospect that we were even thinking in this direction.

“What’s not to like about it? I just would like it to be there right now so we could walk over there,” Gibb added.