Posts Tagged Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe

VIDEO: “THE FREDERICK DOUGLASS PARK ON THE TUCKAHOE” (by Michael Marshall Design)

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STAR DEMOCRAT: “Master plan for Frederick Douglass park revealed” (by Bradley Dress) [September 21, 2021]

Visitor center day

EASTON — Architects unveiled the master plan for the Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe, presenting a grand vision of a towering visitor center, a memorial space, an overlook on the Tuckahoe Creek, meadowland, trails and kayak ramps — all spread across the entire 107-acre parkland.

LSG Landscape Architecture and Michael Marshall Design presented a draft of the master plan to the Talbot County Council on Sept. 14, pulling back the curtains on an initial layout of the park — which could cost $37.5 million to build — that will draw international attention and potentially become the county’s biggest tourism boom.

Cassandra Vanhooser, the director of economic development and tourism for the county, said the master plan realizes the dreams she first had for the project when she started it in 2018.

“When we hired this team, we said, ‘Here is a piece of property we would like to develop in honor of Frederick Douglass. It’s a blank canvas, there’s nothing there,'” she said. “From day one, we had a big dream for what could happen there, and I would say they met and exceeded my expectations. It’s a vision for what could be, and it gives us sort of a roadmap to getting there.”

Relatives of Douglass also applauded the master plan, noting it pays tribute to the famous abolitionist who was born on the parkland near the Tuckahoe Creek more than 200 years ago.

“It’s important for all of us to recognize and understand Frederick Douglass is one of our country’s greatest heroes,” said Kenneth Morris Jr, a descendant of Douglass. “To know he was born here on the Eastern Shore — and (have) the opportunity to recognize him with a beautiful visitor center and park — is the opportunity to bring tourism from all over the world.”

In the master plan, guests arriving at the park from Lewistown Road are greeted by a 20-acre field and meadowland, and make their way to a parking lot and a large visitor center — a 25,000 square foot, futuristic-looking facility overlooking the entire parkland.

The visitor center will act as a museum site. Inside the building, past the initial lobby, are offices for administrative and research departments, but also an auditorium, a study room and exhibit spaces featuring information about Douglass’ life. Atop the structure will be a viewing deck with a 360 degree view of the park.

Outside the visitor center is also a large amphitheater, while a memorial will be built across from the building. The memorial will host large marble slabs featuring quotes from Douglass along with his engraved image.

Michael Marshall, the lead designer, said the visitor center and memorial site are crucial to the overall park experience.

“This area shaped (Douglass’) thinking and his survival,” said Marshall. “We wanted some place really special to be expressed in the visitor center and the memorial aspect.”

Marshall also created enough of an open atmosphere for nature observance, much of which has stayed unchanged since Douglass’ time. Meadowland dots much of the park space, while the park will also host trails, a boardwalk near the Tuckahoe Creek, lookout points and launch points for small watercraft.

Each component is an integral part of the overall vision for the park. The inclusion of a large visitor center, along with nature, trail and water access, creates a hybrid design, which will offer a comprehensive experience — and one that will attract visitors from around the world, said Marshall.

“We’re trying to combine those into a hybrid experience of coming to this site, so they can come here and canoe or appreciate the environment as it is now and the wilderness of it,” he added.

The project could be scaled up or down, according to the designers. Preston Peper, the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said they wanted the designers to start big, and work from there.

“We told them to shoot for the stars,” he said, adding he was impressed. “As far as the visitor center itself goes, I think that’s more than anybody on this committee was envisioning.”

The Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe was first established in 2018, and is actually now open to the public. But a 14-member advisory committee, made up of county officials as well as relatives and scholars of Frederick Douglass, have been working to fully develop the parkland since its grand opening.

The committee held a hearing last October at the park, and opened up public comments for much of the time following that meeting (the committee is still encouraging public comment as the master plan is still a draft).

The release of the master plan is the culmination of a years-long efforts to create a blueprint for the parkland. Corey Pack, a county councilman who also sits on the committee, said the master plan presents a bold vision but one worthy of Douglass.

“Remember who you are honoring. We have to think big. If we have to go smaller then we will, but we want to make sure this center pays tribute to this man in a respectable way,” he said. “This will be an international destination. So when they come, they need to see something worthy of their time and respect.”

Pack plans to introduce a resolution that will form another committee, dubbed Friends of Frederick Douglass Park, that will continue to tweak the master plan, as well as fundraise.

The committee will look at state and federal grants, as well as some local dollars. Most of the money will come from corporate sponsorships and organizational partners who want to invest in a park that will one day attract international visitors. There are no interested partners as of yet.

The project will be built out in phases, with the memorial site, the Tuckahoe Creek overlook, and the pollinator meadows planned to be built out in the first phase, likely within two or three years. A second phase will include trails and small outdoor structures for the public to use, as well as more interpretive panels.

The visitor center is part of the final phase, and could take as long as a decade to construct. It’s estimated to cost $1,500 per square foot.

While Douglass is commemorated across the country, The Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe will be the first of its kind on this scale.

It will also connect to other historic sites commemorating Douglass, including smaller ones on the Eastern Shore and others in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where Douglass lived out the latter years of his life at Cedar Hill.

The park will tell a structured narrative about Douglass and his relation to the Tuckahoe and the surrounding community.

The narrative presented in the interpretive plan is still open for discussion according to county officials, but it will tell the story of Douglass through the natural setting of the park, as well as panels and exhibits with detailed information.

The big theme in the interpretive plan: “During Douglass’ formative years, the people, experiences, and unique landscape of the interconnected Tuckahoe community in Talbot County helped to shape his world views and and ignited his lifelong quest for justice.”

Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He was raised by his grandmother, Betsey Bailey, who served on a large  plantation called Holme Hill, owned by Edward Lloyd V in the Tuckahoe and Wye Mills region.

While his family was not free, around Tuckahoe there was a free community of African Americans that Douglass engaged with.

John Muller, a Douglass historian, said he wants the park to focus its storytelling not only on the natural environment and slavery aspect, but also the free community he was surrounded by, which included African American Methodists and Revolutionary War veterans.

“The focus on natural, archaeological resources are wonderful, but it doesn’t appear from the plan that there is a motivation and desire to tell a compelling story that would include the growth of methodism and how that impacted Bailey’s rearing in Tuckahoe region,” he said, “and the impact of the free black community in and around the Tuckahoe.”

Vanhooser said much is still up in the air regarding how the story will be told, and that the county “invites public input in every step of the process.”

For relatives of Douglass, whose lineage continues today, the park has a very personal impact. Tarance Bailey Sr., the five times great nephew of Douglass, recently spearheaded an effort to erect a mural commemorating Douglass’ life in Easton. The groundbreaking ceremony for the mural was held on Sept. 4.

With the mural and the Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe, Bailey said the connections of his ancestor’s roots on The Shore are finally being realized. He wants the park to remain in keeping with the master plan’s ambitious vision.

“This will be the biggest attraction (for Douglass) on the lower East Coast,” he said. “I think it should be something that Uncle Frederick would be proud of — he had grandiose tastes.”

Bailey wants Douglass’ story on the Tuckahoe to be told well and comprehensively, too. “You can put up a pretty building, but once you go in there it has to impress, it has to teach and it has to inspire,” he added.


Story LINK

Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe

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Star Democrat, “Community discusses long-term vision for Frederick Douglass Park” [front page, October 28, 2020]

STAR DEMOCRAT, “Community discusses long-term vision for Frederick Douglass Park”

Residents gathered Oct. 24 at Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe to discuss a long-term developmental vision for the new park. Supporters debated what the open land — which could attract visitors from across the country once fully developed — should offer the public, while also honoring the legacy of one of the most prominent Black Americans in history.

Many floated the idea of walking trails while others wanted more ambitious projects, such as a replica village to visually display how Douglass grew up.

The meeting was the last public hearing before the master plan for the park will be presented to the Talbot County Council in February. The Design Minds, one of a group of designers for the park, spearheaded the meeting.

“Our goal is not to create static exhibits or a static experience, but one that continues to grow and allows people to contribute stories,” said Michael Lesperance, the principal of Design Minds. “Whether that’s somebody recollecting an ancestor talking about what life was like here then or about boats coming up the river — we can capture those stories and integrate them into the displays.”

Lesperance suggested incorporating Douglass’ influence on the local area, because the historical figure inspired free black communities such as Unionville. He also said information about Anna Murray-Douglass, Douglass’ wife, will be displayed. She grew up on the other side of the Tuckahoe River.

Residents came up with a list of ideas as well.

After discussing ideas in groups, community members presented them to each other. Some asked for a picnic area, an auditorium, an educational center that showcases videos about Douglass’ life, even informational panels and lunch areas for children to gather at on school trips.

Others vouched for trail accessibility to the Tuckahoe River and panels along the way, explaining what water sources were like back then.

Local history researcher Priscilla Bond Morris said there should be a balance between the personal stories and the land, and there could be a garden or a symposium added to the park.

“The natural landscape and the verbal stories — they go hand in hand,” she said. “There’s a balance to be met. There’s an international scope. You can come here if you’re a local for an event, but if you’re a Douglass scholar you can experience his formative years.”

Though proposals from residents were numerous and ambitious, Cassandra Vanhooser, the director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County, said they will be collected and analyzed before drafting the master plan. She added that “all ideas are welcome” at this stage, and that more ambitious projects could be phased in over time.

“Right now, we’re all just talking in concepts,” she said. “We’re all dreaming, and we should dream big. We got big sky, big land, big water — we should dream big.”

Vanhooser, who sits on the Park Advisory Committee with eight others, said the first step is the interpretive plan, which “tells the stories” in the park, and then the master plan, which will go into detail about locations and pathways for each amenity. After the master plan is approved next year, the committee will begin to examine funding and grants.

The park means a lot to Terrence Bailey Sr., a descendant of Frederick Douglass’ brother. He said there should be “marble steps and pillars” and interactive, state-of-the-art amenities.

“You put this up, you can guarantee people will come from far and wide,” he said. “If it’s not up to the standards of a man who was the face of abolition — “ he paused — “you know, if there was no Frederick Douglass, where would we be at now? There are no limits to what you can do with this land.”

Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe was officially established in 2018, on the 200th birthday of the influential black leader and abolitionist. Most of the 107-acre land on the Tuckahoe Creek, located just south of the town of Queen Anne, was acquired by Talbot County in 2006 with the help of a $1.8 million grant from the state.

Douglass, a leader of the abolitionist movement and a prominent author and activist, was born near Tuckahoe in 1818, and the park serves to commemorate his legacy.

Vanhooser was the brainchild behind using the acquired land to honor Douglass near his birth home.

“When I first came here, I was like, ‘Isn’t this where Frederick Douglass was born?’ I could see possibilities,” she said. “There’s a wonderful opportunity here. It’s a beautiful, beautiful space. This is a celebration of how far we have come, and the world is our oyster.”

Since it was announced in 2018, the park has had little development. COVID halted the master and interpretive plan process in the spring, which just resumed with the Oct. 24 meeting.

Preston Peper, the parks and recreation director for Talbot County, pointed to three panels along an asphalt road, overlooking the Tuckahoe Creek. He said the panels are the first additions to the park, but they will serve as a gateway to the master plan.

“These went up about a month and a half ago,” he said of the panels, which explain in detail Douglass’ life. “For a long time people would show up and there was nothing here. So the first step is the placeholder for these panels. Now we can get people thinking about these in proximity to” their ideas.

One resident protested the direction the committee was taking.

Local scholar John Muller, who has written books about Frederick Douglass including The Lion of Anacostia, said more of Frederick Douglass’ personal history should be told, not a “nursery rhyme history.”

“A complete story cannot be told when the complete story is not known,” he said. “There are not efforts to reach out to subject matter experts who have the expertise and knowledge of Douglass here on the Eastern Shore.”

Muller said there should be a direct connection from the park to Cedar Hill, Douglass’ estate in Anacostia in his later years. In the panels, the park notes other historical sites, including Cedar Hill, and connects them on the map.

Still, most of the residents gathered were enthusiastic for the new park. Dale Green, a descendant of Bishop Alexander William, who was a relative of Douglass, noted that the comments today were “impactful.”

Green, who sits on the advisory committee, said the finalized plan will incorporate big ideas.

“We learned that there are those who want to see a building, and those that want to see the water,” he said. “It’s important to understand all the different dynamics we heard from people today.”


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Preservation Maryand: VIDEO -> “Considering Authenticity in Research & Interpretation on the Underground Railroad” (Recorded Webinar, September 2020)


Interesting conversation. Much work to be done.

Not sure Big J and I would have trusted these folks with confidences when we were ripping and running on the city side of Old Washington Road.

We shall see what will be.

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Community Meeting & Project Launch -> Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe [Sat., November 2, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM; *RAIN or SHINE* @13213 Lewistown Road, Queen Anne, Maryland 21657]


The Talbot County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism will be holding a community meeting on Saturday, November 2, 2019 beginning at 2:00 p.m. regarding plans for the future development of the Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe.

13213 Lewistown Road
Queen Anne, Maryland 21657

The purpose of the meeting is to receive input regarding future plans for his park honoring Frederick Douglass.  The design consultant hired by the County, LSG Landscape Architecture, will make a brief presentation and gather input of those in attendance regarding future development of the park.

Please contact Preston Peper, Director of Parks and Recreation at 410-770-8050 with any questions.

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County Planning to Begin for Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe – [Wednesday, January 30, 2019, at 4 p.m]

The Talbot County Department of Parks and Recreation has been awarded a grant of up to $50,000 from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority to develop both a master plan and an interpretive plan for the Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe.

The official groundbreaking for the County-owned park was held on February 14, 2018, which was the 200th birthday of native son Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, who later changed his name to Frederick Douglass.

The park covers 107 acres on the Tuckahoe Creek just south of the town of Queen Anne in the northeast corner of Talbot County. A 66.96-acre parcel was purchased in 2006 with $1.8 million from Maryland Department of Natural Resources Program Open Space. The family of George C. and Naomi H. Moore donated another 40.2 acres of wetlands adjacent to this parcel in 2011.

The MHAA grant will allow Talbot County to engage members of the community and develop a plan for developing the infrastructure for a recreational park. In addition, it will identify places to tell the story of Frederick Douglass and to give more information about the Tuckahoe watershed and landscape.

In his first book, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author himself writes, “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland.” The Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe is located just upstream from the farm where Douglass was born in 1818.

“I am really looking forward to this endeavor,” says Parks and Recreation Director Preston Peper. “The Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe is a blank slate, full of possibilities. This planning process will help us determine the best use of this property and allow us to honor a great man. It’s exciting.”

Council President Corey Pack agrees. “The work we do now will set the course of the future for this park,” he says. “There will be ample opportunity for the public to participate in the planning process and to present their ideas for the park.”

Late in 2018, the Talbot County Council appointed a committee to work with County staff and their consultants on the development of the Douglass Park. Members of the committee are as follows.

Dale Glenwood Green is a professor of Architecture and Historic Preservation at Morgan State University and is partner in the architectural firm of Sulton Campbell Britt & Associates, PC. He serves as the chairman of the Governor’s statewide ethnic commission for community initiatives for the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

County Manager Andy Hollis is the chief administrative officer of the County. Under the direction of the Council, he directs and supervises the administration of all agencies of the County government, unless otherwise stated by charter or law. Hollis resumed the County Manager position in 2015 after his term on the County Council ended. Before being elected to the Council, he served as County Manager for 11 years.

An active member of the Talbot County Park Advisory Board, Kim Kearns attended Georgetown University and earned a degree in American Studies. She has been a resident of the Eastern Shore for more than 30 years.

Eric Lowery currently serves as president of the Easton-based Frederick Douglass Honor Society. He is a long-time resident of the Unionville community and is employed at Chesapeake College.

The great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington, Kenneth Morris Jr. is the co-founder and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). Morris also serves as the chairman of the 16-member Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission established by Congress.

Local history researcher and preservationist Priscilla Bond Morris is a member of Historic Easton, Inc., where she helped oversee the Town’s downtown redevelopment plan. In 2018, she developed the content for Talbot County’s new FrederickDouglassBirthplace.org website. Morris’s family roots in Talbot County date to the 17th century.

Corey Park is serving his third elected term on the Talbot County Council, after having been appointed in 2007 to fill an open seat, and currently serves as Council president. He recently retired from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services where he was been employed since 1994.

Preston Peper oversees Talbot County’s parks and public landings, as well as the Community Center. During his tenure, Peper has revamped the department’s budget, created a marketing program, increased programming, and was instrumental in the creation of the Oxford Conservation Park.

Marci Ross serves as the assistant director of tourism development for the Maryland Office of Tourism where she manages the state’s Welcome Centers Program, call center, and outreach efforts, as well as the marketing grant program. She played a key role in developing the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Cambridge and has successfully advocated for tourism attraction signage along Maryland’s highways in every corner of the state.

Mark Turner has served as a commissioner in the town of Queen Anne for more than 10 years. He is trained as an architect and works in health care design and construction for CRGA Architecture firm in Annapolis.

Cassandra Vanhooser currently serves as director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County. Under her direction, Talbot Tourism won the coveted “Visit Maryland Award” in 2015 from the Maryland Office of Tourism Development for their Escape to Talbot County rebranding campaign. In 2018, the department was again honored by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development for leveraging partnerships for the Frederick Douglass 200th birthday celebration.


The first meeting of the Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe Planning Committee will be held on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, at 4 p.m. in the Bradley Meeting Room, located in the South Wing of the Talbot County Courthouse, 11 N. Washington Street in Easton


LINK: Star Democrat

Talbot County Press Release: (PDF)


UPDATE: This meeting was promptly postponed.

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