Those who today visit the old Lexington Manor neighborhood, once known as the Flattops, won't see much in the way of development. Since the neighborhood was demolished in 2005, virtually all that remains are the remnants of the neighborhood's old streets, constructed in 1940, and falling into disrepair.
As recreation and parks works to reimagine the open space as a passive park, stakeholders intend to preserve the land while improving its walkability for those who wish to enjoy the scenery and trails in the quiet nook of the Lexington Park community once known as the Flattops.
The St. Mary's commissioners approved a draft design for the passive park on Tuesday.
“Lexington Manor Passive Park … is turning a new page with this master plan,” the draft states. The area “is already used and loved, while its infrastructure is limited and roads in disrepair.”
The north parcel, which spans 33.8 acres, was designed by the county commissioners as open space in 2016. The previous commissioner board said they did not anticipate developing the parcel commercially — and with the area planned to be zoned as rural preservation and its location in the AICUZ, or air installations compatible use zone, regulations on development are restrictive.
In its first phase, the plan imagines road improvements along South Coral and Lei drives and new parking areas along South Coral Drive and East Rennell Avenue; installing bollards to guide traffic; installing safety lighting and video cameras around existing park entrances; relocating the northern disc golf baskets to the southern parcel near the U.S. Colored Troops Interpretive Center; and creating pathways between the Lexington Manor passive park and the nearby John G. Lancaster Park.
“The plan essentially opens up East Rennell there for access into the park, and then closes off, except for during events, South Coral,” Jim Klein of Lardner Klein & Associates, the firm hired to design the park, said.
Plans also include installing a pavilion with restrooms at the South Coral Drive and Lei Drive intersection, with seating areas, picnic tables and lighting for events.
Developed through work sessions with stakeholders, “There was a comment in question about trying to work more closely with some of the stewardship interests,” Klein said. “The solution here is just to bring together kind of an MOU with a [nongovernmental agency] that has an interest in stewardship.”
“Once you clear those trees back by the interpretive center … It's improved tremendously,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said. “This is a really good plan to go forward with. … All this takes time and patience.”
“There's so much potential here,” Commissioner Eric Colvin (R) said. “I especially just love the community involvement in it.”
“When do you see it built out?” Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) asked.
“We've already got the engineering work out to bid,” Art Shepherd, St. Mary's recreation and parks director, said. “I'm thinking by next year at this time we should have that first phase built that attracts user groups, nonprofits. … After that the sky's the limit.”
Even with the design plans, the park is still without a formal name — recreation and parks will nominate three options for consideration, which will be chosen after a public poll.
Other initiatives for the park are contingent on grant funding — including establishing a community garden, developing the “arts park” concept through a nonprofit that would manage a public art program focused on the park, an initiative sought after by the St. Mary's County Community Development Corporation and other interest groups.
“In support of the enthusiasm for arts in the park, a nonprofit is currently being organized to further explore, engage with the community through public art, and build on the framework to determine the types of arts features that should be included in the park, as a strong expression of the community at large,” the master plan states.
The county has allocated $600,000 in its capital budget for improvements at the park in 2020 and 2021.