WHEN TALK BEGAN four years ago about creating a recreational greenway along the wasteland of the Gwynns Falls Valley, many dismissed the idea as stillborn. But there were also plenty of believers, who have been able to sell their vision about a 14-mile system of trails stretching from Leakin Park's Franklintown to the Inner Harbor.
If all goes as planned, the construction of the first section -- a 4.5-mile stretch -- will begin next winter. Meanwhile, design work for the second phase is beginning.
The greenway idea is not a new one. The Olmsted brothers, in their 1904 master plan for the development of parks in the new suburbanizing parts of Baltimore, recommended the acquisition of stream valleys to link neighborhoods. While other parts of the Olmsted plan were quickly implemented, it took nearly a century for the greenway concept to mature and become accepted.
Several events have been held this spring along the Gwynns Falls Trail route. More are being planned, including a June 1 cleanup of Ellicott Driveway, which was opened in 1917 at the site of the former Ellicott Mills. Other projects this summer will include planning to refurbish Bloomingdale Oval (an abandoned ball field on Franklintown Road) and the construction of a boardwalk at a wildlife sanctuary in South Baltimore.
There is so much gloom and doom in the city these days that the Gwynns Falls Trail project represents a ray of hope. It proves what involved citizens can achieve. As communities spruce up their backyards and front lawns, neighborhood spirit is revived, optimism blooms.
If this much happens during the preparatory stages, we can hardly wait to see the good that comes of the greenway when it opens.