Three cheers for the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners for, last month, bringing the dream of a permanent recreation and community center in Prince Frederick one step closer to reality. By a unanimous vote, they agreed to start work now, develop a master plan next year, and fund construction in 2023. Before this welcome reversal, the County had put off progress on the Center until at least 2026.
This new permanent Harriet Elizabeth Brown Recreation and Community Center would replace the makeshift interim Center, opened in 2016 in the old SMECO building on Dares Beach Road. It will be built on 27 acres on Fairground Road, conveniently across from Calvert High School and next to the Park and Ride lot.
This new Center in the geographic middle of the County will be a boon to citizens countywide. It will provide “heart” to a town now characterized by disjointed geography, limited recreational opportunities, few places or institutions that support a strong and cohesive community, and a high percentage of low-income families. It will be a safe and healthy place for creative activities for all ages – from hiking and picnics, to recreation, sports, classes, meetings, community gatherings, and maybe even a farmers’ market.
Like its sister centers across Calvert County (from Chesapeake Beach’s Northeast Community Center to the Southern Community Center in Lusby), the new permanent Center in Prince Frederick will be a community center, not a profit center. It will serve County citizens, be run by the County Parks and Recreation Department, and be primarily funded by our tax dollars, supplemented as possible by outside sources.
In 2015, at the recommendation of the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Commemoration Task Force, our County Commissioners voted to name the Center in honor of this Calvert County icon. Other Task Force recommendations, already implemented, were naming a stretch of Maryland Route 2 the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Memorial Parkway and commissioning a portrait for prominent display in the Courthouse.
In 1937, Ms. Brown and her 29-year-old NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall, successfully challenged Calvert County schools for paying African-American teachers about half of what they paid white teachers. Calvert County did the right thing and settled the case, paving the way for salary equalization across Maryland and the nation.
Please join your fellow Calvert Countians to implement the third and final Task Force recommendation – building a permanent recreation and community center in Prince Frederick, including a small museum devoted to the struggle for equal pay for Black teachers.
You can help by doing three things.
First, speak up! Help develop the Master Plan. What is most needed in a recreation and community center in the County seat? How can this new Center be designed to work for Calvert Countians even in the worst of pandemic times? For example: a focus on outdoor activities, architecture allowing for social distancing, cleaner ventilation/HVAC, safer rest rooms, and more.
Second, stay informed! Show up at, or tune in to, the December 1, 2020 10:00 a.m. County Commissioners’ meeting for an update on progress. Go to Meetings on Demand on the County website: https://www.co.cal.md.us/1501/Meetings-On-Demand.
Third, encourage Calvert’s County Commissioners (firstname.lastname@example.org) to put their money where their mouth is – with $500,000 for planning and development in next year’s budget, followed by construction money in 2023!
The need is great and the time is right. A vibrant and permanent recreation and community center will bring new life to Prince Frederick with activities that serve citizens countywide.
Chair, Harriet Elizabeth Brown Commemoration Task Force Port Republic, MD