This post summarizes the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo took a position on during the 2020 Regular Session.
County government parks and recreation department provide a range of public recreation programs for all segments of the population and maintain a large network of open spaces throughout Maryland. MACo’s advocacy seeks to support the efforts of county parks and recreation, by urging state and federal funding support and defending local determination of priorities in parks and recreation.
This year, for the first time in since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did not have hearings or did not move forward due to time constraints to meet the new deadline. For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 Resource Page.
Follow links below for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database.
MACo opposed legislation that imposed a restriction on the use of state funds, including Program Open Space (POS) monies, for the installation of synthetic or artificial turf playing fields and playground surfaces. The General Assembly has considered and rejected synthetic turf bans or prohibitions nearly every year for the last seven years. Counties pointed out that restricting or prohibiting the use of synthetic turf fields and playgrounds would place an unnecessary hardship on local jurisdictions with limited funds because natural turf fields inherently require more time and resources to install, maintain, and replace, particularly for indoor installations. MACo stressed the value of permitting each local jurisdiction to determine which type of field best meets the needs of their residents. The bill never moved out of committee following its public hearing in the House.
Community Parks and Playgrounds
MACo supported legislation that would allow allow Baltimore and Howard Counties to receive grants from the Community Parks and Playgrounds Program fund. Currently, Program provides $2.5 million in grants on a competitive basis annually for approved projects in municipalities aimed at developing or improving parks, but counties are not eligible to apply for funds. Howard and Baltimore Counties do not have municipalities within their borders, effectively leaving a large section of Maryland without access to the Program grant funds. Unfortunately, the bill received unfavorable reports from committees in the House and Senate and was eventually withdrawn by the sponsor.