County breaks ground on Angel Park

MARCH: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was joined by elected officals and members of the community Monday morning to celebrate the offical ground breaking of Angel Park, an all-inclusive playground to be built in Perry Hall.

East Baltimore County’s newest park is moving closer to becoming a reality after ground was broken Monday morning in Perry Hall.

Angel Park, a storybook-themed $1.5 million all-inclusive playground an amphitheater specifically designed to be the most accessible playground.

Located on land adjacent to the Perry Hall Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, Angel Park will be the county’s largest all-inclusive playground specifically designed to accommodate children with special needs by eliminating physical and social barriers to inclusion. The group behind Angel Park also think it will be the largest park of its kind not just in Maryland, but in the whole country.

“What a great day this is today,” said Baltimore County Public Library Director Paula Miller who has watched the project grow over the years. “We are so excited to be neighbors with Angel Park and look forward to many great collaborations to come.”

Angel Park was conceived and majority-funded by the community through private donations and fund-raising. Kelli and Andy Szczybor were inspired to create Angel Park in memory of their son Ryan, who died 17 years ago when he was only 15 months old.

“When you lose a child, you are just looking for something to help them live on and to help your family heal,” Said Angel Park co-founder Kelli Szczybor.

The Szczybor family participated in the construction of Annie’s Playground in Harford County and found that to be a healing experience that they wanted to emulate for the Perry Hall community.

“We want to do it right and have worked really hard to include everybody’s ideas and harness the energy of the whole community,” Szczybor said.

The majority of ideas came from the ones who will be getting the most use out of the playground, children.

Two years ago the Angel Park group met with more than 4,500 students in pre-K through fifth grade in nine schools to brainstorm ideas for what should be included in their future park.

The park will include a wheelchair-accessible “shaky bridge,” a Braille panel, therapeutic swings, 30-foot accessible zip lines, as well as quiet spaces for children with autism and other conditions. The storybook theme includes a fire truck, pirate ship, castle, music stations, and a treehouse.

Local elements will include a seafood store, a Terps turtle, police station, ice cream shop and more.

“This was a dream of Kelli’s and now it’s a reality,” said Sen. Kathy Klausmeire. “The whole community will benefit from this, and the state and the whole-wide world.”

Monday’s groundbreaking was the culmination of two years of energetic fundraising by hundreds of volunteers from the Perry Hall Recreation Council. While two-thirds of the funding is being raised through community fundraising, the other third will be funded through county and state funds.

Baltimore County government is contributing a $250,000 grant from capital funds, and bond bills are pending in the General Assembly for a total of $200,000.

“I was happy to sponsor state grant funding to help make Angel Park a dream come true to kids and families in the Perry Hall area and beyond,” Klausmeier said.

To date, of the $1.5 million needed to be raised by the community, about $200,000 is still needed to construct everything.

“Having been grown up in Perry Hall, this is the most important and most proud I have been of a project,” said Del. Eric Bromwell. “I’ve never seen a better collaboration between elected officials and the community.”

The playground construction itself will be done almost entirely by the Perry Hall Recreation Council’s community volunteers on county-owned land leased to the park, and to be turned back over to the county for continuing maintenance.

“When Baltimore County received this acreage next to the library in 2012, our office created a committee to create a sign for the property,” said David Marks. “The idea of Angel Park was born, and it is coming to fruition thanks to a partnership between the public sector, private companies, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers.”

The Angel Park founders are seeking volunteers from the community to do the hands-on construction during a planned 10-day community build from July 8 through 17. Thousands of volunteers are being sought by the Perry Hall Recreation Council, with information available online at the Angel Park website, www.angelpark.org.

“This is a one of-a-kind experience to work side by side with strangers to help create an amazing community resource for kids with special needs to be able to play with their friends and families,” Szczybor said.”

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