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P.G. County Proposes Facelift at Watkins Regional Park

William J. Ford | 8/20/2014, 3 p.m.
Children enjoy the carousel at Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro. (Courtesy Photo)

Tameka Wright of Upper Marlboro cheered on her four-year-old cousin, Elijah Scott of Boston, Massachusetts, as he tapped a golf ball in the hole at Watkins Regional Park's miniature golf course.

Across the street at the playground, about four dozen children that included 20 from Kazoku Martial Arts in Capitol Heights played on the swings, and climbed the monkey bars.

"It's good for [the Kazoku children] to get outside so they get to release some steam the right way," Darryl Artis, 25, a martial arts instructor at Kazoku, said. "Plus, Watkins is a cool place. If they decide to enhance the park, [then] that would be even better."

Officials with the Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation are crafting a proposal to refurbish the park in Upper Marlboro. A park document highlights some ideas that include creating new programs, expanding and upgrading current amenities and looking for public and private partnerships. As of July 23, the grills at five pavilions near the playground appeared rusty. Some of the pavilion columns are chipped. Construction work not affiliated with the proposal that's been completed, or are underway, include a roundabout on the park's main road, a clubhouse next to the Watkins Tennis Bubble and a

new access road to the park off Landover Road available for visitors to use in the fall.

Through a county parks spokeswoman, director Ronnie Gathers, said the department had no specifics about cost — new programs, or other park improvements which are currently unavailable because the plan's still in the preliminary stages.

Gathers said residents will be invited to offer input during the planning process.

"Each year we hear from parents and grandparents who went to the park as children and now return for [events such as] Kinderfest... and visit the animals at Old Maryland Farm," he said. "The park has been wellloved for years."

Carol Binns, senior planner with the parks department, said this will be the county's first formal master plan for Watkins.

During a Planning Commission meeting last month, Binns said 1 million people visit the park annually. She said the 15 picnic pavilions are constantly booked between October and May for visitors to use in the spring, summer and fall.

"Watkins is a very busy place," she said.

According to the park document, a master plan is scheduled to be finalized by July 2015.

The 50-year-old park is named after the late Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Chairman Robert M. Watkins. The commission's an agency that monitors, administers and creates a regional park system in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Prince George's has 591 parks, but Watkins is the county's largest equipped with wetlands, five softball fields and nearly two miles of paved and ground pedestrian trails.

Visitors can see an array of

insects, reptiles and birds at the Watkins Nature Center. Animal enthusiasts can walk north to look at ponies, llamas and sheep at the Old Maryland Farm.

In the central location of the park near the farm are three of its major attractions: the Chesapeake Carousel, the miniature train and miniature golf course. The carousel's home originated in Chesapeake Beach, Calvert County, but shipped to Watkins in 1970 where it still remains.