Consultants are right to underscore that the city's parks and recreation department should capitalize on Druid Hill Park's relationship with the non-profit Baltimore Zoo. Not only has the zoo been located in the park for nearly 120 years but its exhibits today account for a hefty share of the park's year-round visitors.
The recommendation is just one of many suggestions that aim to spruce up the 740-acre oasis.
Since Druid Hill Park was created in 1858, the open-air greenery has had its ups and downs. Despite some attempts -- including a 1950s idea to locate a convention center there -- its geographic integrity has been retained.
Today, Druid Hill Park has no shortage of severe problems, according to the consultants' report. Its drainage system is shot, partly because of the recent expansion of zoo exhibits.
Among other recommended improvements, the consultants list the following:
* Rebuilding pedestrian walkways and creating multi-use systems for jogging and bicycling.
* Closing the motor-vehicle entrance to the park at Greenspring and Liberty Heights avenues to discourage high-speed through-traffic.
* Construction of an 861-space parking lot to better accommodate the Baltimore Zoo.
* Building gates at the park's four main entry points to deter illegal dumping and vandalism.
* Turning the park's historic Mansion House into a museum or an education center.
The consultants also touch on Druid Hill Park's more controversial past.
As in other Baltimore parks during the segregation era, blacks were forbidden to use white swimming facilities, tennis courts or golf courses. A demonstration that foreshadowed the civil rights struggles took place there on a summer Sunday in 1948, when an interracial group of 24 tennis players was arrested in the park.
The consultants recommend that the old Negro Tennis Courts be improved to tournament condition and renamed to honor Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, the African-American tennis greats.
The consultants' report puts no price tag on these and other recommendations, including a systematic replanting of trees. The costs are certain to be considerable and will require help from Annapolis. But a grove of Japanese cherry trees, donated by citizens and planted while William Donald Schaefer was governor, underscores that the private sector also should be involved.