Enhancing Annapolis' gateway

March 23, 1994

A popular argument against expanding the jail on Jennifer Road, along U.S. 50-301 near Annapolis, was that it would ruin the gateway to the state capital. Indeed, it might have, but U.S. 50 has never truly been the gateway to Annapolis; that honor has always belonged to Rowe Boulevard. This mile-long straightaway, which passes over small bridges and pretty inlets and leads straight to the steps of the State House, has the potential to be a greater asset to the city and the state than it is already. Thanks to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, that potential may soon be fulfilled.

Last week, the Schaefer administration unveiled a $2 million plan to enhance Rowe Boulevard with landscaping and curbs, to be followed with more expensive, ambitious improvements over the next five years -- new sidewalks, bridges and parks. If the governor approves the funding, the curbs and landscaping could be completed as soon as December. We hope he follows through on what appears to be an inclination to pursue this project. It has been on the books for at least four years; now is the time for the state to move forward with it, before the kind of excessive commercial development that has marred U.S. 50 damages Rowe Boulevard.

The details of the $2 million plan -- what kind of curbs, what to put in the median strip -- ought to be relatively easy for state and city officials and community groups to hammer out. Future beautification plans will require more discussion. One idea is to have some fanciful columns on the bridge across College Creek, possibly topped by sculptures of osprey. That proposal reminds us of the talk that preceded the building of the Governor's Mansion fountain; it sounds tacky, but could turn out well. The important thing is for the city and state to take care to enhance the boulevard's natural beauty, not detract from it. But there is plenty of time for that debate.

For now, city residents should be showing Governor Schaefer support and enthusiasm for the $2 million plan. In its own way, an inviting Rowe Boulevard is as important to Annapolis as keeping the courthouse downtown and getting Main Street rebricked. The courthouse expansion required negotiation with preservationists, the rebricking is a fight still in progress. But enhancements to Rowe Boulevard are being offered almost as a gift, one the city should accept eagerly and gratefully.

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