The wind bites at my cheeks and my hands begin to go numb as I walk next to Town Councilwoman, Kelley Malone. She is leading me along newly constructed paths to a vast expanse of 58 acres that has been dubbed, “Easton Central Park” running right along side Route 50.
“It was actually named the RTC (Resolution Trust Coorporation) Property,” says Malone, “but people didn’t know what that meant.” Instead she, along with other members of the RTC Task Force, decided to call it a something that more accurately reflected the space: Easton Central Park. Malone adds, “It’s not the formal name, we just wanted something that was more attention grabbing.”
We walk slowly, gravel crunching beneath our feet as Ms. Malone tells me the history behind, as she puts it, “a very complicated piece of property.”
“The land was originally purchased by a developer,” she begins. “He planned to build a residential development, but he went under.” Subsequently, the bank that took over the property failed. The town then bought the land with the stipulation that it be used primarily for recreational and open space purposes. Since the early 2000s, discussions have been underway about exactly how to utilize this enormous space cut within the confines of Easton.
There have been a number of suggestions, forums, and surveys conducted to answer this question, taking great effort to include those who live in areas adjacent to the property, as well as other members of the community. “It was evident that a clear majority of those who participated in the surveys did not want the property used for organized sports,” says Malone. “They really want a passive park, where they can play pick up games, explore nature, or have a picnic.”
Despite the survey results, some town government officials expressed a desire for multi-purpose or sports fields to be built on the site, in an attempt to alleviate the possible overuse of Idlewild Park. “There are a number of pick up games going on, people are using the track, kids are playing on the playground, a baseball game might be going on—the field is getting torn up,” continues Malone. The RTC Park could potentially offer some relief. “There could be multi-purpose fields,” says Malone, “but, they would be informal, people wouldn’t have to register to play.”
The topography of the park lends itself to accommodate all types of outdoor activities. The northern portion of the property, currently under construction, is generally flat, suggesting the possibility of multi-purpose fields. The southern side has a lower, more varied landscape, which includes the Tanyard Branch Stream. It’s also been determined that roughly one-third of the southern portion is considered wetlands.
As with any open ended project, there is no shortage of ideas about how the space should be used. “We have heard every single park idea,” laughs Malone. Four Paws Parks has advocated for a dog park. Other people would like to see community gardens, an arboretum, or a place for school children to come and learn about the importance of wetlands and maintaining healthy waterways.
Though many of the suggestions have not yet been acted upon, the park does have trails open and, as a result of a temperate winter, has seen a lot activity. “When I walk the paths, there are always people out,” says Malone. The installation of pathways for hiking, funded by a grant from Project Open Space, was one accomplishment; finding a way for them to reach the paths was, until recently, a problem.
The issue of access to the park still remains. Currently the only entry point is a path from a newly constructed parking lot behind the Talbot County Board of Education on Magnolia Street. “The Mayor came to an agreement with the Board of Education allowing us to lease the land, providing vehicular access to the park,” says Malone. “It is a great example of the town and the county working together for the betterment of the community.”
My tour of the property ends in the freshly paved parking lot, where I climb back in my car, rosy cheeked and shivering slightly. I stare out at the gray, winter sky knowing balmy days are not so far in our future, when my family and I will come back for a visit.
Check out Easton Central Park’s Facebook page to follow its progress or leave a comment below with your thoughts on the park's use.