Festival to celebrate Herring Run rebirth Walkathon along stream, games at park tomorrow

April 12, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

In a city of ethnic festivals, where thousands salute Baltimore's culinary feats, the Herring Run Walkathon and Festival is an odd duck.

It celebrates not cannoli or kielbasa, but clean water.

The second festival, scheduled for tomorrow at Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore, promotes rejuvenation of the Herring Run watershed and the Chesapeake Bay, where it empties.

The festival includes a walkathon along the stream, children's games, a poster and photo contest, an environmental puppet show and displays by community and environmental groups.

Free herring samples will be distributed to commemorate the stream's past life as a 25-mile stream system that spawned the fish more than 50 years ago. The festival also is dubbed "Spring Migration" in memory of the fish.

"We're drawing attention to the fact that Herring Run used to be clean enough for herring. Our walkers are symbolic of the herring," said Lynn Kramer, one of a group of local environmentalists who organized the festival.

Ms. Kramer is active in the Herring Run Watershed Association, which orchestrates tree plantings to stop polluted water from washing into the stream, stream cleanups and educational programs for children.

The festival, said several organizers, is an opportunity for diverse communities to learn how to save the 40-square-mile watershed that includes 120 community associations, 77 schools and 65 churches. The stream system begins near Towson and extends deep into the city, draining into Back River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

"I see it as an opportunity to bring people out of the house, down to the park to celebrate Baltimore's natural resource and raise awareness about the care that we need to take as people living in a delicate natural world," said Jackie Carrera, a founder of the Herring Run Watershed Association.

The festival was the brainchild of Walter S. Orlinsky, the former City Council president who directs a state tree-planting program.

Mr. Orlinsky was known in his political days for novel ideas -- such as serving a 69,000-pound birthday cake for the 1976 U.S. bicentennial -- a cake that went mostly uneaten at the Inner Harbor. He says his idea to celebrate Herring Run "is better than the cake."

Ms. Kramer recalled getting a phone call from Mr. Orlinsky in summer 1994. "Wally said, 'What do you think about a Herring run?' " she said. He was thinking of a footrace to promote the stream cleanup.

By the next spring, 50 environmentalists were planning the first festival. Mr. Orlinsky's idea of a race evolved into the walkathon. The first festival drew 1,500 people -- 250 of whom joined the walkathon that raised $19,000 for environmental efforts.

This year, organizers expect 500 in the walkathon and have received inquiries from as far as Virginia.

Participants will see some recent additions to the landscape. Mr. Orlinsky's crews have planted 10,000 maple, tulip poplar, sycamore, redbud, dogwood and persimmon trees along the stream to soak up rainwater.

Mr. Orlinsky says the stream is still alive with a few kinds of small fish. He has even seen great blue heron and kingfishers eating from the stream.

"The problem with Herring Run is not pollution, contrary to common wisdom. The challenge is the extreme amounts of water that go in and blow everything out," he said, referring to rainwater that rushes off buildings and streets.

When the waters wash out the stream, he said, few living things stay long enough to spawn.

For information about the festival and walkathon -- which can be reached from the park entrance at Argonne Drive and Harford Road -- call the Herring Run Watershed Association at 254-1577.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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