Ground broken for trail through Leakin Park

December 03, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A recreational trail along the Gwynns Falls was lauded as an important "green" link among city neighborhoods during a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday in Leakin Park.

"This will be a beautiful greenway trail which will help to knit Baltimore together," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, addressing an audience that included a student jazz ensemble from Winston Middle School.

The mayor noted the idea for the Gwynns Falls Trail dates to a 1904 design for the city by the Olmsted Brothers firm -- sons of the celebrated landscape architect of New York's Central Park.

In the first stage, 4.5 miles of a 14-mile hiking and biking trail will be built next year, along with an amphitheater, playground and sledding hill in Leakin Park -- at a cost of $2.3 million.

A fifth-grader attending the ceremony, Tanya Avery, 10, looked around a clearing known as the Children's Loop and said, "I'll probably have a picnic here."

Eventually, planners said, the Gwynns Falls trail will connect Leakin Park, the Inner Harbor and the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

Schmoke and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, praised the partnership between government and nonprofit organizations as a unique example of cooperation in an "urban wilderness" project with community participation.

In explaining why $1.3 million came from federal transportation funds known as ISTEA (for the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act), Sarbanes said, "When you stop to think about it, walking, hiking, biking, roller skating -- that's transportation, too."

Two nonprofit groups that worked closely with city and state officials over the past five years were the New York-based Trust for Public Land and the Parks and People Foundation. The Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund contributed $800,000 to the $7 million project.

Baltimore was one of seven cities selected to receive Reader's Digest funds for creating new parks, said Peter Howell, a program officer.

"Jobs and housing used to be the engines of urban development," said Howell. "Now livability of the urban core is seen as essential."

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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