- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

FREDERICK, Md. — San Antonio has its River Walk. Now Frederick has Carroll Creek Park.

Today, the city will reopen a three-quarter-mile stretch of walkway designed to make Carroll Creek the splashy center of downtown revival and expansion.

The park, conceived 28 years ago, capitalizes on redevelopment opportunities created by a flood-control project that tamed the waterway in 1993. Restaurants, shops, offices and homes are starting to open along both banks on land once occupied by dank factories.

After devastating floods in 1972 and 1976, “this was basically unusable ground — out of sight, out of mind,” said Richard Griffin, the city’s economic development director and park project manager.

The $60 million flood-control project put the creek safely underground, leaving on the surface a waist-deep waterway in a 1.3-mile manmade channel with concrete banks 40 feet wide. After years of planning, debate and false starts, the city closed a section of the barren corridor in April 2005 for construction and landscaping that have transformed it into a brick-lined promenade — Phase I of the $30 million park project.

Navy blue lampposts, railings and other hardware bring a nautical touch to the surroundings. Newly planted trees and shrubs soften the views of new buildings clad in red brick matching the color of many 18th- and 19th-century structures in the surrounding historical district.

A 400-seat amphitheater will be christened tomorrow with the blues of Automatic Slim and His Sensational Band. Across the creek stands the curvaceous, recently expanded public library. Just upstream is an 80-foot-long pergola, available for parties and picnics. A kayak livery will open nearby.

Paddlers can pass beneath three new pedestrian bridges — including an unusual single-column suspension bridge — and at least three traffic bridges. The older spans include the meticulously hand-painted Community Bridge, a renowned piece of public art that has been Carroll Creek’s main attraction since muralist William Cochran finished it in 1998.

Dick Kessler, chairman of the task force that has guided the project for nearly three decades, said the park and new buildings will complement the clustered spires of centuries-old churches that many associate with downtown Frederick.

“In 20 years or 50 years, people should be able to recognize that this is not something that was built in the 1700s but that it was part of the 21st century,” Mr. Kessler said. “Hopefully, it will be viewed as a positive thing, how it was integrated with the rest of historical Frederick and yet that it was new and took on a character of its own.”

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