Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition
Monument parking lot rendering by Gabrielle Rashleigh | Courtesy AIA Baltimore Urban Design Committee
The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition seeks to create a 35-mile world-class network of urban trails that link together the diverse neighborhoods, cultural amenities and outdoor resources that make up the landscape of Baltimore City.
When complete, the trail network will connect the city’s anchor institutions and destinations—including universities, hospitals, museums, parks, schools, waterfronts and employment centers—with Baltimore’s diverse communities. The trail network will transform the public realm by providing equitable, healthy, low-stress access to open space and reliable transportation and recreation for people of all ages and abilities.
This modern-day trail vision is inspired by the 1904 Olmsted Plan for Baltimore, which called for creating a network out of the city’s vast amounts of public parkland. Today, we have identified new opportunities in the built environment to bring this vision to reality.
The study examines the potential economic and social benefits of a $28 million plan to expand and connect existing trails in Baltimore City to complete the Greenway Trails Network.
This report was prepared by Ernst & Young LLP in cooperation with Rails to Trails Conservancy for the Greater Washington Partnership.
What This Means for Baltimore
Only 10 additional miles are needed to close critical gaps through 50 neighborhoods and help reverse the urban fragmentation prevalent since the 1950s. Former rail lines, industrial coastlines and reconfigured roadways will be transformed from barriers in the built environment to community-based assets centered on trails. This will change the way Baltimore residents work, live and play—and generate myriad long-term impacts related to social equity, health, environmental conservation, active transportation and economic development.
Promoting Social Equity
Baltimore is fragmented by busy roads and a history of housing policies since the 1950s and 1960s that have resulted in socio-economically segregated communities. Today, many neighborhoods are isolated from transit, trails and greenways, while more than 200,000 (nearly 1 in 3) residents are without access to a car. The 35-mile greenway loop will connect 50 of the city’s diverse neighborhoods to the downtown core—providing safe walking and biking access to jobs, schools and outdoor opportunities for physical activity and recreation.
Improving Health and Wellness
In Baltimore, opportunities for physical activity are low, but chronic disease is high. While Baltimore has many parks and open spaces in which to be active and connect to nature, a more equitable trail network will open up these places for nearby residents, many of whom face challenges in the built environment for access. For decades, entire neighborhoods have been isolated from public outdoor space and transit, making it difficult to be physically active outdoors. The completed trail network and the new opportunities it creates for exercise and active transportation will lead to increasingly accessible places for healthy communities to thrive.
Protecting Our Environment
The Baltimore Greenway Trails Network is based on a vision set forth a century ago to create a parks and greenways system in the city that naturally integrated—and was built upon—the city’s three stream valleys (Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls and Herring Run) and other unique natural features. The trail network will help preserve these cherished assets while also serving as important green infrastructure that safely transports hundreds of thousands of people to their destinations while lowering Baltimore’s carbon footprint. This green infrastructure network will: provide wildlife habitats and increased tree canopy; support stormwater management through trailside plantings and gardens; help clean the air; and reduce the urban heat-island effect while shading neighborhoods and creating a sense of place—for people and the environment.
Creating Active Transportation Connections
The trail network will provide active transportation connections within neighborhoods, activity centers and the downtown core—including to important public transit stations—creating a new freedom of mobility for residents. For example, residents in south Baltimore will be able to use trails for increased access to transit and parks around the Middle Branch waterway for easier, safer access to downtown employment centers. The trail network will also provide a seamless off-road link between the Jones Falls Trail and the Herring Run Trail (at Lake Montebello), creating connections to two major universities, two large parks and more than a dozen diverse neighborhoods.
Promoting Strong Businesses and Economies
Serving as more than “just a trail network,” the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network will support economic development across the city—linking employment centers to residential neighborhoods and supporting community development through trail-oriented development. The trail network will bring new vitality to isolated areas and strengthen connections across the divided landscape. For example, a former industrial section of Baltimore’s east side is experiencing rapid growth as new people move in and businesses pop up regularly. This economic renaissance will be enhanced by transforming the area’s disused rail line into a rail-trail stretching south to the city’s popular inner harbor and north to residential neighborhoods—creating a host of new access points and active transportation options. The rail-trail connection will also help breathe new life into vacant brownfields and industrial corridors by serving as a draw for vibrant mixed-use development and by providing new open space.
The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition is a broad-based group of diverse stakeholders that includes more than 40 active partners. The coalition is focusing its early efforts on strengthening the programming and support of existing trails at all levels of civil society. The partners are also working with: a) communities in trail corridor gaps to build advocacy networks for future connecting trails; b) elected leaders, business leaders and community advocates to develop innovative funding and finance plans for trail building; and c) public agencies to incorporate trail-building plans into their capital improvement projects and master plans.
The coalition will build on and support already emerging initiatives in the city, including Parks & People’s One Park Concept, Baltimore City’s emerging Green Network Plan, the updated Baltimore City Bicycle Master Plan, and a revitalized master plan for the Middle Branch.
Welcome to the Baltimore Trails Community Blog! Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is excited to launch this new online resource to provide regular updates on the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network.
RTC's Baltimore staff will use this space to talk about current initiatives and upcoming events—and to highlight the work of our wonderful partners who are working toward a greener and more connected city, with more access to open space, trails and new ways to get around town.
Celebrating Safe Crossings at Druid Hill Park
In the greater Mondawmin neighborhood of Baltimore, a major intersection and divided highway make it nearly impossible for people to cross the street safely, essentially isolating them from Druid Hill Park and all it has to offer. On Sept. 28, 2016, the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network partnered with public artist Graham Coreil-Allen to create a demonstration crosswalk to show how safe street crossings can provide much-needed access for residents to Druid Hill Park.
Join the coalition to make the 35-mile Baltimore Greenway Trails Network a reality.