(From left, back row) Nate Elko, REALTOR® Nick Elko, CAR Board Member Tony Prochazka, CAR President-elect Joel Maher, CAR President Don Bailey, CAR Executive Vice President Page Browning, CAR Board Member Joseph Wilson, CAR Board Member Brandon Johnson, Somerset County Recreation & Parks Director Clint Sterling, Maryland REALTORS® Director of Housing Programs Laurie Benner, and Somerset County Community Health Educator Crystal Bell. (Front row) Sophia and William Prochazka.
The Coastal Association of REALTORS® (CAR) traveled to Smith Island on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 to help build a pocket park primarily funded by a grant the association received from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
The local REALTORS® were joined by their children, CAR staff, a representative from Maryland REALTORS®, representatives from the Maryland Department of Planning’s Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office, and representatives from Somerset County.
Earlier this year, CAR received a $5,000 Placemaking grant from NAR to help make Smith Island a better place to live and visit by transforming an unused space into a vibrant public space for the community to gather and enjoy. The grant is intended to help REALTOR® associations partner with others to plan, organize, implement, and maintain Placemaking projects in their communities.
The funds were used to transform a vacant lot located on Smith Island Road in the Village of Ewell. The lot is owned by Ewell Fire Department and Recreation Center, Inc., which has given permission for this site to be developed as a pocket park. The park contains picnic tables, benches, a bike rack, trash receptacles, mulch, trees, shrubs, grasses, and an information kiosk. The park will be maintained by citizen’s group and nonprofit Smith Island United and other residents.
In addition to the $5,000 provided by NAR, CAR contributed $300 and the Somerset County Recreation and Parks Department contributed $200 in cash, plus the kiosk, which is valued at $300. Smith Island Cruises provided boat transportation to volunteers and staff to travel to the island to deliver and install the park amenities.
While on the island, volunteers toured the Smith Island Cultural Center and viewed the film “Land and Water, People and Time,” which provides viewers with a glimpse of life on Smith Island. Volunteers also toured the historic Ewell United Methodist Church, where Pastor Rick Edmund presented CAR with a plaque in appreciation of the association’s contribution to the new park. The group wrapped up their visit with a traditional meal of crabcakes and Smith Island cake at The Bayside Inn.
The need for an outdoor gathering space on Smith Island was voiced by residents during community meetings and discussions which resulted in the Smith Island Vision Plan. The Maryland Department of Planning contacted CAR in pursuit of the Placemaking grant, which was used last year to construct a community art chalkboard in Downtown Berlin.
“We are so incredibly honored to complete this project on such a beautiful, historic island that maintains and celebrates our area’s rich heritage. If you’ve never been to Smith Island, do yourself a favor and make the trip,” said CAR President Don Bailey. “We’d like to thank the people of Smith Island for their warm reception, as well as the State Department of Planning, Somerset County, and National Association of REALTORS® for their help in the funding, planning, and execution of the project.”
Placemaking grants are awarded to local and state REALTOR® associations to help them and their members create new public spaces and destinations in a community, like turning a parking spot into a people spot (parklet) or a vacant lot into a pocket park. REALTOR® associations and their members are actively engaged in the community and know the neighborhoods and the properties that would benefit most from these Placemaking projects.
Anyone interested in pursuing a Placemaking grant through CAR should contact Government & Public Affairs Director Sarah Rayne by calling 410-641-4409 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about CAR, visit www.coastalrealtors.org. To find out more about the NAR Placemaking Program, visit www.realtoractioncenter.org/placemaking.