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Sweigert honored for work with park system

August 30, 2009|By JANET HEIM

While Everybody's Day at Pen Mar Park is an annual celebration designed to offer something for people of all ages and tastes, this year's event was special for one person in particular -- Edith Sweigert.

Sweigert, 87, was honored Sunday for helping Washington County purchase and develop Pen Mar Park.

Sweigert was an administrator for the Washington County Parks Department from 1971 to 1992.

"Edith was instrumental in securing Open Space funds to purchase the park up there," said Jaime Dick, recreation director for the Washington County Recreation Department.

Dick said that when the Western Maryland Railroad opened Pen Mar Park, the park was the "equivalent of Ocean City, Md.," with hotels and a "full-blown amusement park." People traveled from the city to the park by train, before car transportation was prevalent.

As more people purchased cars, they started heading to the beach instead of to the mountain retreat. Dick said that in the 1960s, the State of Maryland wanted to purchase Pen Mar Park from the railroad, but the purchase fell through because of a budget shortfall.

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That's when Washington County stepped in and used Open Space money to purchase the park. Dance and picnic pavilions were built, and the park was reopened in May 1977.

Dick credits Sweigert for "getting it all together. She was very thorough with paperwork," he said.

"In 1977, we brought back Everybody's Day and we haven't missed a beat" since then, Dick said.

Ron Bowers, who worked with Sweigert when he was a Washington County Commissioner from 1978 to 1998, calls her "the mother of the park system of Washington County."

Over the years, Bowers said, he thought Sweigert should be recognized.

Parks are made up of land and buildings, but if they don't accommodate all people, including those with disabilities, they don't serve the public well, Bowers said.

"She cared about people from all walks of life. That's why the county parks are as diversified as they are," Bowers said.

Sweigert was presented with a plaque, and Bowers gave a history of the park and of Sweigert's involvement. Some of the former county Parks Department employees who assisted Sweigert were on hand.

"There couldn't be a more significant day for recognizing Edith Sweigert than Everybody's Day because she cared about everybody," Bowers said.

Sweigert is quick to say the credit should be shared with the people with whom she worked.

"It's more like me thanking everybody. I'm the one that is in debt to everyone," she said.

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