Two Plans Converge to Connect Baltimore’s Green Space

Posted 03/22/18 by Avery Harmon, Jim Brown in America's Trails

South Baltimore community leaders and RTC staff walk the Gwynns Falls Trail while discussing how the trail is supporting community needs by providing access to open space and nearby public transit. | Photo by Avery Harmon

On March 14, Baltimore publicly launched its Green Network Plan—a citywide initiative to redevelop vacant land—and connect natural areas and community corridors—through a series of greening projects, including recreation areas, trails and urban gardens. As Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) continues to work with Baltimore’s leaders and citizens to create a 35-mile trail network in the city, we are honored to have been included in this historic plan—an important step toward realizing our shared vision of a more connected and vibrant city.

At its core, the purpose of the Green Network Plan is to overcome racial disparities and advance equitable development, overall livability and environmental resiliency in a holistic network of green infrastructure that ultimately results in the revitalization of Baltimore’s most underserved neighborhoods. This plan has been two years in the making, and is the result of much community engagement and cross-partner collaboration to envision a future built around green infrastructure and the economic, social and cultural assets that define Baltimore’s communities.

RTC was among the organizations and agencies that stood alongside Mayor Catherine Pugh and Planning Director Tom Stosur to announce the plan—including the Chesapeake Conservancy, Blue Water Baltimore, the African American Firefighters Historical Society, the Parks & People Foundation, The Neighborhood Design Center, Druid Heights CDC, the Department of Planning, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Check out a recording of the event below.

Creating a World-Class Trail Network in Baltimore

Aerial photo of Jones Falls Trail at Druid Hill Park | Photo by Milo Bateman, courtesy Allerton Media LLC
Aerial photo of Jones Falls Trail at Druid Hill Park | Photo by Milo Bateman, courtesy Allerton Media LLC

The community outreach, design conversations and partnerships that have guided our exploration of a wholly connected Baltimore trail fully support the mission of the Green Network Plan to create a more sustainable future in a city that has historically taken a fragmented approach socioeconomically with regard to planning, land use and development.

The Baltimore Greenway Trails Network project currently comprises 25 miles of existing trails and 10 miles of corridor gaps that could create integral trail connections to complete the network and connect isolated neighborhoods throughout the city. Potential routes include the following:

  • An unused railroad corridor connecting the waterfront at the former port to residential and commercial areas
  • Two Olmsted-designed corridors—on 33rd Street, and between Druid Hill Park and Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park—which will connect four universities, three large parks, four existing trails and dozens of diverse neighborhoods
  • A utility corridor that will provide a new meadow-like park and trail connection for east Baltimore
  • A former brownfield site and railroad yard on the banks of the Middle Branch of the harbor in south Baltimore, which, when developed, will include miles of trail and park connections between downtown, the waterfront and neighborhoods that have been—until now—physically disconnected from the city’s economic centers downtown
Aerial photo of Jones Falls Trail near Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens | Photo by Milo Bateman, courtesy Allerton Media LLC
Aerial photo of Jones Falls Trail near Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens | Photo by Milo Bateman, courtesy Allerton Media LLC

The Green Network Plan launch is another big step for the Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition, which has been making great strides over the past year. We continue to engage communities throughout the city as we expand our broad-based coalition, which now includes more than 60 partner organizations, while working with local organizations and partners to advance community planning and design work on the Middle Branch connection in South Baltimore and the Gwynns Falls Parkway and East 33rd Street corridors.

We are simultaneously working with a variety of stakeholders across the city to develop a meaningful vision for a trail network that is positively reflective of individual neighborhoods and honors the city’s history. We are thrilled that trails will play an integral role in Baltimore’s larger citywide vision for revitalization—and that we have such great partners to help see our project through to completion.

As stated in a summary of the Green Network Plan, “By providing residents with better access to nature and recreation, we can improve public health and safety, and strengthen economic development opportunities. We can also enhance habitats for our native wildlife species and improve stormwater management. In creating connections between our green spaces—and between our neighborhoods—we can enrich our social connectivity, strengthening the bonds amongst our residents. And by improving and increasing the green space available in long-neglected neighborhoods, we can help address long-running disparities, making our city more equitable.”

DON'T MISS: 112 Years Later: Baltimore’s Trail Network Vision Is Coming of Age

We look forward to continuing our collaboration with our partners and most importantly with the residents in every neighborhood to create a network of quality community trails that will enhance the ability for all people to navigate and enjoy the city!

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