‘Green heart’ of Anne Arundel Co. could sprout up at site of old Maryland mental hospital

Leaders in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, have said they’re eager to work with the state to takeover a piece of land that once housed a large mental hospital.

The site of the old Crownsville Hospital Center, a psychiatric hospital that was shuttered by the state back in 2004, is what County Executive Steuart Pittman calls “the green heart of Anne Arundel County.”

Located right in the center of the county, Pittman said “it has a history of really sort of failures by the health system, mental health in particular, to treat people with respect and dignity and help them heal.”

His long term vision would make amends for that while keeping it as green space, too.

“We want to create passive recreation opportunities for the community,” said Pittman. “It’s adjacent to an area, Bacon Ridge Natural Area, that we have acquired and preserved and we have some mountain bike trails there.”

Right now some nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities also lease space from the state at that same location, and Pittman says he expects those types of programs to continue having a home there.

“We want to nurture the nonprofit organizations that are there, allow other nonprofits to be there particularly for health and wellness efforts,” said Pittman. “Then people are at a setting and can get out into nature and get outside and I believe that’s an important part of that kind of work.”

It’s not clear how long it’ll take to negotiate the transfer of the land, nor is it clear how much it’ll cost. The estimate in the Maryland Department of Health’s Facilities Master Plan says the cost could range anywhere from $0 to as much as $34+ million, depending on how much demolition work the state has to do.

“We know there are going to be costs of some remediation,” said Pittman. “We’re certainly going to be talking to the General Assembly about participating in that.”

He said in the past, state lawmakers have shown a willingness to help out with the costs for that land.

“It’s beautiful and I’ve described it as the ‘green heart at the center of our county’ and people understand its history and people want to do something that is really special there,” said Pittman. “It’s a top priority for me.”

But this only allows the county to begin planning to take the steps necessary to achieve that vision.

“It’s the start of probably a long race to get this to the point that we want it to be,” said Pittman.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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