By EMELY MIRANDA-AGUILAR
Hidden under overgrown shrubs and trees in Berwyn is a plot of land that many in the neighborhood would like to see put to good use.
“I have always looked at it as being spooky because it is dark and isolated on both sides,” resident Brian McAllister said of the property, located at 5100 Roanoke St. “I wouldn’t let my grandkids play at that place.” McAllister was one of a number of residents who participated in a virtual discussion about the property, hosted by the Berwyn District Civic Association’s (BDCA) on Jan. 18.
Rakhmel Rafi, the city’s grants coordinator, gave a presentation about the property.
Aerial footage from 1965 showed that a house once stood on the property at Roanoke Place and 51st Avenue, though the property has been cleared and vacant since 1977. New homes cannot be sited on the parcel because it is in a 100-year floodplain, according to Rafi.
The City of College Park is exploring possible uses for the site, which the city purchased with funds from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Program Open Space.
Rafi outlined options including designating the lot as a pocket park for residents or creating a dog park. He said that the city was also considering installing fitness equipment similar to that at the Crystal Springs Fit Lot on 37th Avenue.
Rafi said that the city was interested in garden options for the parcel, including a community garden or a permaculture garden. A permaculture garden would preserve much of the existing landscape and augment it with native, pollinator-friendly plants, along with bird and squirrel feeders, to create a largely self-sustaining wildlife habitat.
While attendees at the meeting were enthusiastic about the possibility of a permaculture garden, some expressed concerns about maintenance.
“We struggle to maintain the one we already have in our neighborhood,” said Berwyn resident Emily Friend, who is BDCA’s treasurer. “If you add another one to the neighborhood, with residents as opposed to city staff maintaining it, it could fall into disrepair again.”
Friend suggested a rain garden, which she described as a planted area that collects water runoff and allows it to soak into the ground, as an alternative. She said this approach would be suitable for managing water on paths and nearby streets, and that a rain garden could be used as a teaching tool.
Dan Blasberg supported the idea of a garden of some kind, but was doubtful of the city’s ability to handle storm water management projects.
“The city’s track record of doing water management projects, to me, is an abject failure. All you have to do is look at the soft runoff at the end of Rhode Island Avenue and Greenbelt Road. It’s ten years old, and it collects more mosquitoes now than it did before they played with it,” he said.
Other attendees voiced support for a rain garden, a community garden or a dog park.
According to Alec Lynde, who is BDCA’s IT director and chairs the organization’s parks and open spaces subcommittee, BDCA representatives will reach out to the city to coordinate a survey which would allow residents to participate in the decision-making process and vote on options for use of the space.
The City of College Park is proposing buying another empty lot on Pierce Ave in Lakeland for $100,000, and will hold a hearing about it on Feb. 6 at 7:30pm.