West Baltimore's Appalachian trail Greenway: Ground-breaking on 4.5-mile path through Leakin and Gwynns Falls parks.

December 02, 1997

AFTER YEARS of brainstorming and fund-raising, today marks the groundbreaking for a 4.5-mile asphalt trail along stream valleys in West Baltimore's Leakin and Gwynns Falls parks.

If everything goes as planned, that new walking, bicycling and line skating path will eventually stretch nearly 15 miles, connecting Dickeyville and Windsor Hills to the Inner Harbor and Middle Branch.

Today's ceremony is cause for jubilation. For the first time since the two parks were devastated by Tropical Storm Agnes in the summer of 1972, they are about to become accessible to the public.

Thousands of residents in the Baltimore region, who have never seen this undisturbed Appalachian-like landscape, are in for a pleasant surprise. They will marvel that over 2,000 acres of such wilderness exists so close to Baltimore City's urban core. (They should also tour the Windsor Hill area neighborhoods nearby and see the underappreciated potential.)

Tuesday's event is a milestone for the Trust for Public Land and the Parks and People Foundation. Those non-profit groups have been tireless flag-wavers of the greenway idea, convincing doubting donors and city officials that the wilderness trail concept is feasible.

Some 90 years ago, two brothers of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted proposed a greenway in this area. The Gwynns Falls valley, they said, "has the character of a wooded gorge; the scenery is remarkably beautiful, of a picturesque and sylvan sort seldom possible to retain so near a great city."

Greenways have become popular in counties where they are part of the park system. The 13.3-mile Baltimore and Annapolis Trail that parallels Ritchie Highway and runs from Glen Burnie to the Severn River certainly is a big hit. So is the Baltimore County path that follows the course of the Northern Central Railroad.

The Gwynns Falls Trail could become a similar success, but only if a number of problems are tackled. Chief among them is the perception that Leakin Park is unsafe. Sponsors clearly still have lots of hard work ahead of them.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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