Within the next year, the city of Bowie, Maryland, is set to take ownership of a horse racetrack that was once a jewel in the industry.
The track later became a training center, but now it sits abandoned.
Bowie leaders are trying to figure out what to do with the site; it straddles Race Track Road and backs up to the Patuxent River and the Anne Arundel County line.
The land, which is almost 200 acres, also comes with a few strings attached.
For one, the city has to enter into a joint-use agreement with Bowie State University, which both sides see as a positive that will strengthen ties between the two communities. And, the land has to be used for recreation, which can be defined in a lot of ways.
“Where the track itself sits, it’s just really wide-open, flat land; and really, the obvious uses there would be ball fields and that type of thing,” said Joe Meinert, the Bowie’s director of Planning and Sustainability.
“We’re looking to grow recreational space that our students could use for intramural kinds of activities, to expand the range of sporting opportunities that we could make available to them,” said Cassandra Robinson, Bowie State’s director of University Relations. “So space that could allow for new types of ball fields that we don’t have on campus currently.”
She also said that there’s interest in possibly building a facility that the school’s ROTC program and other members of the community could use, too.
Land that sits along the Patuxent River, which is shallow and almost marshy in that area, must also be used for passive recreation, but even that still leaves many opportunities.
“Our natural sciences department is doing a lot of work in that area, as well as in exploring new agricultural techniques,” Robinson said. “So, space that would allow to expand and have more opportunities for some hands-on projects that would get our students out into the environment for real experiences.”
Meinert said there has also been discussion about building trails along the water, including possibly connecting to the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, which runs nearby; or even doing something for horseback riding and keeping some connection to the history of horses.
The county’s Park and Planning Department is looking at ways to improve access to the water, and launching spots for kayaks is also being discussed. However, it is too early to say if that stretch of river is even conducive to those types of activities.
“It’s a very rare opportunity,” Meinert said.
A workshop was held over the weekend to solicit more community input; a couple of thousand people have chimed in with ideas.
Bowie is also taking input online through Dec. 20. The goal is to have a concept for the property ready for discussion in July 2023.
“How that gets shaped, what that looks like, and some other ideas that might come to the table is what we’re really interested in hearing,” Robinson said.
Bowie State University sits just outside the city boundaries, and for years, there really wasn’t much of a relationship between the city and the school, but that has started to change.
“We’re really excited about how the partnership and the synergy between what the city is thinking about and what we’re thinking about. We think that they’re very well-aligned,” Robinson said.
“We’re really proud of being able to be able to collaborate with the city of Bowie on this project. We see it as a great opportunity for both the city and the university to come away with new amenities that were not available to us in the past.”