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New park rises from flood plain

May 10, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - Bright and shiny as a new penny, Joseph Hancock Jr. Primitive Park has risen from the flood plain on Hancock's East Main Street.

With the park's dedication scheduled for mid-June, the park best can be described as minimalist, with a fancy brick entryway and sign and just a few benches and picnic tables on the grassy landscape.

Town Manager David Smith said descendants of Joseph Hancock are expected to attend the opening event, along with local dignitaries and town residents.

Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said Bruce Hancock, one of those descendants, is planning to come, along with other members of the founder's family.

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The town founder, Joseph Hancock Jr., had ties to the Revolutionary War, and the park will help preserve the town's heritage to that era, Murphy said.

"A kiosk area will be near the 12 apple trees that were planted in the park by the Hancock Rotary Club as a tribute to our orchard heritage," Murphy said.

Those trees were in bloom the other day at the park.

"Some people are calling it 'Apple Tree Park,'" Smith said.

In 1999, the Washington County Commissioners voted to help buy six houses in Hancock that were susceptible to flooding - time after time after time.

Plans to burn the houses down in 2001 were scrapped in favor of demolishing them, hauling away some of the debris and burying the rest of the rubble on the site.

The residences most recently had been damaged by flooding in 1996, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the homes should be torn down to prevent future claims, Close said.

Murphy said the town received federal and state funds, as well as money from the town coffers to help purchase the buildings, which were built around the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The park is being furnished with items that will be able to cope with the next flood that affects the area. And there will be another flood, Murphy said from experience.

"There are six primitive campsites at the back of the park," Murphy said. Hibachi grills also are available to people hiking on the nearby Western Maryland Rail Trail.

Murphy said eventually there will be a pavilion, a parking lot and better access from the park to the hiking trails for bikers and handicapped individuals.

Memory benches also are in the works, he said.

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