Teen-agers get down and dirty at cleanup Gwynns Falls work launches 'greenway'

April 23, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

The sun didn't shine, but the Earth might have smiled some yesterday as about 250 teen-agers cleaned a bit of its face along Gwynns Falls near Leakin Park.

On a chilling spring morning, students from five area all-girl schools and the city's Southwestern High School sloshed through mud and muck to clean up a largely forgotten -- or perhaps unknown -- stretch of land along the falls in Northwest Baltimore.

Their work marked not only Earth Day, but also two beginnings: the first physical labor on a proposed "greenway" recreation area through the city, and the first environmental project by area members of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools.

But the young women from Bryn Mawr, Garrison Forest, Oldfields, St. Timothy's and Western and the young men and women from Southwestern, which borders part of the stream, seemed more interested in cleaning up their world than in trend-setting.

"We're the generation of tomorrow, and we came out to clean," said Rachel Adams, a seventh grader from Bryn Mawr.

"I don't understand how people can just throw their trash here," said Western High School student Heather Campbell, who was holding a discarded window frame with only jagged glass shards left in it.

"This definitely needed to be done way before now," said the 12th-grader, as she stood at the bottom of the steep wooded hill that rises from the falls to Ellicott Driveway -- a hill that obviously has been a dumping ground.

Five of her classmates formed a trash brigade to haul discarded items down the wet, rocky hillside. A tattered sofa leaned down the slope, its matching chair tipped on its side at the bottom.

Below the Edmondson Avenue viaduct, young women in slickers that were as bright as the day was gloomy collected cans and bottles, rotting potato chip canisters, old clothes and gutless televisions. By the end of the first hour, they had filled hundreds ,, of bags with traditional litter and the back of a city dump truck with the larger items -- lumber, car parts, a pay telephone, tires.

"These kids are doing great work," said Christopher Rogers of The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization that has been working with the city for two years to develop a six-mile stretch along Gwynns Falls, from Leakin Park to Middle Branch Park on the Patapsco River.

Known as The Gwynns Falls Greenway, the area will be organized as a series of neighborhood parks with bicycle and hiking trails, he said. It is expected to open in 1995.

"In a few years, you'll be able to come here, get on your bikes and ride to a game at Camden Yards," Mr. Rogers told the damp cleanup crew. "Your part is pretty important. You're here calling attention to the great resources we have here in Baltimore."

The girls' schools got involved with the Greenway as part of the coalition's Girls United to Save the Environment (GUTSE).

"You are the women of the future, and you are going to save the environment," said Midge Bowman, headmistress of Garrison Forest School and a representative of the coalition of 65 schools.

Although most of the girls were strangers to the area, many said they had participated in similar environmental projects.

For St. Timothy's senior Vera Spiridopoulo, the litter reminded her of her faraway home. "We have a lot of cleanup in Russia," said the 17-year-old, who came to this country eight months ago to attend St. Timothy's and live with a family on Gibson Island.

"We had a lack of janitors in Russia," she said, looking around at the trash-littered ground. "It's almost like home."

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