The other inner harbor Middle Branch: Patapsco tributary slated for beautification as part of nature trails web.

September 20, 1997

IT IS A FACT mostly forgotten these days, but the Middle Branch of the Patapsco, which separates South Baltimore from Cherry Hill, was once a prime recreational area. In the early 1800s, an elegant resort called "Spring Gardens" -- named after the area's numerous fresh springs -- even operated near the Hanover Street bridge.

Over the past three decades, the Inner Harbor has been #F transformed from an area of rotting warehouses and piers into a glitzy tourist destination. Could the Middle Branch be given a similar facelift?

The Trust for Public Land thinks so. It has hired David A. C. Carroll, a former state secretary of the environment, to recommend strategies for restoring the tributary's nature and recreational amenities. A turnaround is not impossible: A former junkyard along the shoreline west of Cherry Hill was cleaned up some years ago and returned to a wetlands habitat.

FOR THE RECORD - PLEASE READ MEMO.

"The Middle Branch serves as a gateway to downtown Baltimore and is a critical link between the Gwynns Falls and the Inner Harbor, Patapsco State Park and trails to the south. It can also serve as an important educational resource for city school children and neighborhood residents," said Chris Ryer, of the Trust for Public Land's Baltimore office.

With the completion of the new Ravens stadium next fall, the visibility of the nearby Middle Branch will increase. At a recent planning meeting some participants even talked about the possibility of a "crescent of sports" that could link the stadium grounds to new water-sports facilities along the tributary's shoreline.

The Middle Branch is a terminus of a 14-mile linear park that is being constructed along the Gwynns Falls. When that trail system is completed, Baltimore residents and visitors will have access to more than 2,000 acres of parkland, which can be used for hiking, biking and nature observation. A planned spur also would link the system to the B&O Railroad Museum and Carroll Park's Mount Clare, the only surviving plantation house within the city limits.

Middle Branch rejuvenation is an exciting prospect. It deserves the community's support.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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