North College Park’s Sunnyside neighborhood is getting a new playground

District 1 Councilmember Fazlul Kabir raises his hand for a question at the College Park City Council Meeting at Davis Hall on Feb. 18, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

North College Park’s Sunnyside neighborhood is set to get a park by early 2021, according to District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir.

Plans for the park, which will be located at the east end of Odessa Road, are still in their early stages, said Brenda Alexander, assistant director for the city’s public works department. Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., the construction company, is currently designing the amenities of the playground, she said.

In a community meeting last month, residents expressed “positive interest” in the future play area, said District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir.

“This park will be closer to the homes of many of the young families,” Kabir said. “They’re really excited about it.”

The 1.2-acre lot, known as the “Odessa Outlot,” has been empty for the past 21 years but designated for recreational use, after longtime residents donated it to the city, Kabir said. Its anticipated cost is to be determined, according to the city website.

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Christina Toy, who is raising two small children in the Sunnyside neighborhood, came up with the idea for a playground in 2018 when the lot on Odessa Road was considered for becoming a dog park.

A playground, she said, would be another way to use the space, especially since the nearest park is a “difficult” walk across Rhode Island Avenue. And given the number of kids in the neighborhood, she said that a park could help build a safe and strong community.

“Every day, I see more and more kids riding their bikes around, riding their scooters around, dribbling a basketball,” Toy said. “We need a place for kids and adults to congregate and develop a community.”

But residents whose houses border the future park are concerned about the lack of privacy that a play area would bring, Kabir and Toy said.

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Sunnyside resident Kevin Gillis, who has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years, is one of several residents whose backyards border the parcel.

“I expressed my concern about trying to keep traffic on the far lot,” said Gillis. “They said they would update us when the designs are more finalized.”

On Jan. 8, Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a plan to widen the Capital Beltway — which borders Odessa Road — by up to four lanes.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, which was involved in the negotiations to broaden the beltway, proposed last summer that a 30-foot buffer zone be placed between the expanded highway and the park, shifting city plans further from the highway, but closer to neighboring homes, Kabir said.

“When we got information that part of the parcel will be impacted by this work, we decided to look at a different area of the parcel,” said Alexander. “We made sure it wouldn’t be impacted.”

To mitigate residents’ concerns about privacy, the city will plant trees between the park and the neighboring houses, Kabir said.

Gillis noted that a line of trees will not only block the view from his backyard, but also make it more difficult for the city to maintain the lot.

“I don’t know how they’re going to get back there with the lawnmowers if they plant those trees,” said Gillis. “I also have a big giant window facing the lot… If I have windows, I want to be able to see out of them.”

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