The plan to convert farmland in Dunkirk into a public park reached a significant milestone Tuesday, Jan. 7 when the Calvert County Commissioners awarded a $96,000 contract for architectural services to a Baltimore-based consultant. Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. received an award recommendation by Calvert County Government staff for the preparation of the master plan for the 209-arce Ward Road Park.

Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. was one of 14 firms submitting technical proposals for the project. According to a memo from Purchasing Officer Roberta L. Baker, the proposals “were thoroughly reviewed by an evaluation committee consisting of members from the Department of General Services’ Division of Parks and Recreation and Division of Natural Resources.” The three proposals deemed the best based on a technical scoring system led to interviews with those consultants. “Based on the interviews, Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. presented a thorough understanding of the services required and responded informatively to overall questions,” Baker stated,

No Southern Maryland-based consultants submitted proposals for the project. That fact was noted by the commissioners. Department of General Services Director V. Wilson Freeland told the board that some of the subcontractors to be involved in the project will be county businesses.

The tract was purchased in 2012 by the county for $2.7 million. The money came from a state grant administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The grant money is tax revenue realized from the “pseudo slot machines” in operation at several Chesapeake Beach businesses. The tax revenues were earmarked for recreational amenities by the Maryland General Assembly.

The north end of Calvert has a dearth of playing fields and the new park is expected to address the need. As Baker noted in her memo, the master plan will provide the park with “a natural component” in addition to the “active recreation” fields.

“We are all excited about getting this new park,” said Commissioner Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R], who asked the board to consider naming the facility “Volunteer Park” as a way to honor Calvert’s unpaid emergency responders. Slaughenhoupt said he has discussed the proposal with several fire and rescue chiefs who were receptive to the idea.

Commissioners’ President Pat Nutter [R] stated he supported the name suggestion.