The city's wilderness trail

Gwynns Falls: First phase of 14-mile greenway highlights little-known sights of West Baltimore.

June 06, 1999

THE OPENING of the first leg of the 14-mile Gwynns Falls Trail is cause for celebration. In a city where recreation and parks activities are constantly under threat of budget cuts, this joint project of the nonprofit Trust for Public Land and the municipal government is an unusual achievement.

The paved pathway makes much of 2,000-acre Leakin Park accessible to the public for the first time since the devastation of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.

The 4.5-mile first leg runs from the western end of Franklintown Road, near Winans Way, to Leon Day Park. The second phase, which has received $1.4 million in federal funding, will take the trail through Carroll Park to Pigtown. The final section will provide links for hikers and bikers to the Inner Harbor and Middle Branch Park.

A network of greenways taking advantage of Baltimore's river valleys has been the dream of planners since 1904, when two sons of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted proposed it. The Gwynns Falls Valley, they wrote, "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." That remains true.

In recent years, greenways have become popular elsewhere in this region. The 13.3-mile Baltimore and Annapolis Trail that runs from Glen Burnie to the Severn River has been a big hit. Equally successful has been a pathway that follows the course of the Northern Central Railroad through northern Baltimore County.

Because of its inaccessibility -- and popularity as a dumping ground for murder victims -- Leakin Park does not have positive connotations. This could now change. It is a gem that must be seen to be appreciated.

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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