Electronic town crier

Worth copying: Bolton Hill sets up community Web page that offers resources to residents, outsiders.

June 28, 2000

NEIGHBORHOOD Web pages are a dime a dozen these days in the metropolitan area. But Bolton Hill's redesigned electronic town crier is so good its ideas merit consideration -- and copying -- by other communities.

Most neighborhood Web pages have two problems: Their information is either too skimpy or too stale to be useful. This was the case with boltonhill.org, too, until the site was redesigned recently.

The new version, which is still being perfected, provides the most functional neighborhood clearinghouse we have seen in Baltimore. It covers all the standard bases, from history to the minutes of its sponsor, the Mount Royal Improvement Association. Additionally, it lists restoration and maintenance resources, from chimney sweeps to tool sharpeners, and it has a bulletin board for residents' comments about their experience with contractors.

Apartments for rent and houses for sale -- which are virtually nonexistent in that popular neighborhood -- can be listed on a separate bulletin board. It also contains complaints (about illegally parked trucks, for example), advertises flea markets and yard sales and requests for advice on a variety of topics. One recent query was from a new homebuyer from Washington, who wanted to get acquainted with other families with small children.

"If we have really good communications, we can do anything and do it 10 times faster," said Doreen Rosenthal, one of the site's initiators. Eight others are involved in keeping the information up-to-date.

These helpers are needed because one of the site's outgrowths is an e-mail service. More than 300 Bolton Hill residents are alerted electronically a couple of times a week to urgent matters that range from security problems to reminders about community events.

With an electronic town crier like this, no wonder Bolton Hill is so much in demand these days.

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