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Heritage Park Plans Announced at Darnestown Town Meeting

An historian, park project manager and artist share plans with residents.

After years of planning, construction of Darnestown Square Heritage Park is set to begin as soon as spring 2011.

That was the biggest news discussed at Thursday night's Darnestown September Town Meeting. Crime, upcoming events and Pepco's response to recent major power outages in the area, were among the other topics of the evening.

The manager and the historian for the park project presented residents with detailed plans for the park layout and its historical significance.

Jamie Kuhns, historian at Montgomery County Parks, said they hope the mix of landscaped walkways, sculptures and informative panels will help to "bring history to life."

"We want you to have an emotional connection to the past," Kuhns said.

There are also plans for an integrative website that will allow Darnestown to share its history with the world. But, she said, they hope the park will also bring people to the area.

"We want to encourage heritage tourism in Montgomery County," Kuhns said. "We want to encourage field trips."

The historical information will be displayed on four informative panels around the park, which will each feature a mix of writing and sculpture.  Each will be focused on a cultural resource of the area. The presenters also revealed six characters that represent different parts of Darnestown history — from a Native American to a Civil War soldier — that will be incorporated into the park design. Also included among the characters is a representation of William Darne, an early settler in the area and the town's namesake.

Public space artist Cheryl Foster, who will create the sculptures for the park, shared with the residents her vision. 

"I intend to sculpt figures that will hopefully mesh into the history that is being offered on the interpretive panels," Foster said. "The sculptures will emerge from the stone and will appear stone-like."

According to their website, Montgomery County Parks will build Darnestown Square Heritage Park on 0.6 acres of undeveloped land near the corner of Darnestown Road and Seneca Road. The project is focused around three themes: the town, the historical graveyard and the Civil War.

Project Manager Heidi Sussmann said they aim for the park to be an inviting place and a focal point in the town.

"We want this to be a landmark place," Sussman said. "To give people more of a sense of place, that it's not just an intersection you drive through."

At the meeting, Darnestown Civic Association board members also discussed a recent string of appliance-focused burglaries. A house undergoing renovations in River Road had $15,000 worth of appliances stolen, and police think this might be part of a coordinated crime trend.

Art Slesinger, told residents about attending the Maryland Public Service Commission meeting with Pepco, following the widespread power outages after this summer's storms.   

He said Pepco has plans to both improve and replace underground cable in the area.

The Darnestown Civic Association board will meet on Sept. 30. The next Darnestown Town meeting will be on Dec. 15.

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