Baltimore City is a mature urban area that is laced with streams, most of which are now covered over, that drain into the Patapsco River. Baltimore has experienced a steady population loss in the past 30 years. The population in 1998 was approximately 645,590 and is projected to be 605,900 by 2010. The city is highly urbanized throughout.
The city covers approximately 52,070 land acres. The city’s Department of Recreation and Parks manages 5,700 acres of land on nearly 400 different properties. Half of the properties are less than one acre. The city’s parks/greenways system includes large city parks, golf courses, community parks, neighborhood playlots, open spaces, playfields or courts-only parks, urban lots, and traffic islands. Baltimore’s green spaces were once considered among the nation’s finest. Many of the parks and parkways were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. In the last 30 years the parks and greenways system has suffered from deferred maintenance.
The city’s newly proposed Comprehensive Plan, clearly and strongly supports the establishment, maintenance and design of new greenways. Two greenways trail systems are under development: on the west edge of the city, the 14-mile Gwynns Falls Trail from the Gwynns Falls stream valley to the Patapsco River will link 30 neighborhoods with 2,000 acres of parkland and the Inner Harbor; through the north-south center of the city, the Jones Falls Trail will extend from the Inner Harbor to Lake Roland, a city-owned park located just across the city line in Baltimore County. Long term plans include a greenways between Herring Run Park and Morgan State University, on the east edge of the city.
Other recommendations of the plan include performing an analysis of the park system that would create strategies for retaining, adding or removing land from the park inventory, and developing a financing plan for sustaining the parks and establishing park advisory councils, conservancies, and friends groups.
1) Baltimore Waterfront Promenade
The Baltimore Waterfront Promenade is a mostly completed urban walkway that serves as a connector to area greenways and provides pedestrian linkages to attractions in the Inner Harbor and waterfront neighborhoods. The promenade will be a 7.5-mile continuous walkway rimming the shoreline of the northwest branch of the Patapsco River connecting the Canton neighborhood to areas south of Federal Hill. The project also involves shoreline cleanup, restoration, tree and marsh plantings, and educational signage. The project has been a cooperative effort between public agencies and private enterprises.
2) Gwynns Falls Trail
The Gwynns Falls Trail begins in Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park and travels 14 miles southeast along the Gwynns Falls stream to the Patapsco River and the Inner Harbor. The trail will eventually link 30 neighborhoods with over 2,000 acres of parkland, including Gwynns Falls /Leakin Park, Leon Day Park, Carroll Park, and the Middle Branch Park system.
Phase I of the trail is a four-mile section stretching from Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park to Leon Day Park. Construction of this phase was completed in June, 1999. The trail is open and being used by the public. Phase II is in the final stages of design, and funding has been secured. The city was awarded $1.44 million in transportation enhancement funds for Phase II construction. This four-mile segment will extend the trail to Carroll Park. Construction is expected to begin in December, 2000. Design for Phase III will begin in summer/fall of 2000.
The Gwynns Falls Trail project is a partnership of the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland, Trust for Public Land, Parks & People Foundation, and the Gwynns Falls Trail Council. The Gwynns Falls Trail could eventually connect to the Patapsco Regional Greenways, the BWI Trail, and the B&A Trail. Baltimore County is also working to establish a greenways along the Gwynns Falls from its headwaters to the city line. This link will bring together the upper and lower reaches of the river to provide a continuous linear greenways all the way to Middle Branch Park.
3) Herring Run
The Herring Run greenways is a partially established stream valley greenways in Herring Run Park. Connections are needed between Mt. Pleasant Park and Herring Run Park, and between Herring Run Park and Morgan State University, as well as the Chinquapin Run stream valley and Clifton Park. A planned sewer replacement may provide opportunities to expand the trail. This greenways would connect to a proposed greenways corridor along Herring Run in Baltimore County.
4) Jones Falls Trail
The Jones Falls Trail will extend 10 miles through central Baltimore following the Jones Falls stream valley. This trail system will connect 20 neighborhoods with the Inner Harbor, Druid Hill Park, and Lake Roland in Baltimore County. The Midtown Cultural District in Mt. Vernon will also be linked along this trail system, providing opportunities for experiences in the arts and connections to museums and shops.
The Jones Falls Trail received $1.3 million in federal transportation funds for construction of the first 1.5-mile segment. This segment will connect Penn Station and the Mt. Vernon Cultural District with Druid Hill Park. Design is still underway, but the alignment is expected to basically follow Falls Road. There are no formal designs for the remainder of the Jones Falls Trail, but the city agencies are working on a master plan for the location of the remaining segments.
5) Patapsco Regional Greenways
The Patapsco Regional Greenways is a partially completed regional greenways traversing four counties and ending in Baltimore City. This stream valley corridor is planned as a major ribbon of green providing enhanced water quality, natural and wildlife areas, and public recreation areas. In Baltimore City, the opportunity exists to connect the Patapsco Valley State Park in Anne Arundel County to the Middle Branch Park by way of Reedbird Park and a few segments at the south end of the city along the river. Protection of these parcels could help complete the Gwynns Falls and Patapsco loop.
6) Stony Run Trail
The Stony Run Trail is an existing hiking trail corridor which was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1904 park plan for Baltimore. The trail follows the original easement of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad along Stony Run, a tributary of the Jones Falls. Much of the corridor from Druid Hill Park to the Baltimore County line is already protected greenspace. This quiet hiking trail links Wyman Park at the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood Campus with Roland Park to the north. This trail will ultimately link with the Jones Falls Trail in the vicinity of Druid Hill Park where the Stony Run joins the Jones Falls.