Create urban park with dredge spoil from city harbor I...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 09, 2000

Create urban park with dredge spoil from city harbor

I read with excitement the news that Gov. Parris N. Glendening wisely chose to abandon plans to foul the Chesapeake Bay with dredge spoil from Baltimore Harbor.

Nevertheless, as a resident of the city, I realize the importance of the harbor to Baltimore's continuing economic viability. So long as the city struggles economically, it remains a less attractive place to locate a business or raise a family, and fuels the creation of suburban sprawl.

The question of where to dispose of dredged mud instead of at Site 104 recalls an earlier episode of dumped material, and the possibility to correct the wrongs associated with it.

When Interstate 170 was planned for Baltimore, it cut through the heart of old West Baltimore, a mostly African-American section of town. While similar projects were defeated elsewhere, notably in Federal Hill, Fells Point and Leakin Park, the West Baltimore section replaced a viable community of 19,000 people with a 30-foot-deep hole, one-mile wide.

Rubble from thousands of homes along Franklin, Mulberry and Pierce streets -- along with millions of cubic yards of earth -- was dumped into the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. Years later, the convenience of the "expressway" is short-lived for anyone heading west of downtown; after 10 blocks at 50 mph, one abruptly re-enters the local street grid.

While hardly a boon for local commuters, this trench is ideally suited to another purpose. It could be filled up to grade with mud taken from the shipping channel.

We could replace an unsightly barrier that artificially divides West Baltimore with a prime location for badly needed parkland. Homeowners along Franklin and Mulberry streets, some of whom may have originally lost homes to misguided highway planners 30 years ago, would reap the added value to their property.

Imagine a block-wide greenway connecting Mount Vernon to the West Baltimore MARC station, instead of residents having to breathe in the exhaust fumes of commuters.

I propose that the various state, federal and city officials work with neighborhood leaders, and devote federal highway funds to the design and creation of Pierce Street Park. The plan would pay for itself with the money saved from having to truck the spoils further afield, and by the addition to the city tax base of properties along Pierce Street Park.

Michael Lester, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Gwynns Falls Watershed Association.

Baltimore Symphony excels in outdoor setting

I would like to commend the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for its summer performances at Oregon Ridge this past week. The beautiful music that was played at their July concerts revealed once again that the BSO is among the country's top orchestras.

However, there was too much that went unheard during the show. Gossiping, noisy patrons and the occasional cell phone combined to drown out large portions of the music, stifling parts to mere murmurs.

It's understandable that picnickers will have a different approach to an outdoor concert rather than an indoor performance. Additionally, the holiday crowd that Oregon Ridge draws will likely be less interested in the music than normal.

Yet at the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood, by comparison, attendees can somehow balance their Frisbees and fun with a respect for the orchestra.

This is not an impossible feat; the crowd's awed hush for the subsequent firework display revealed this possibility. It's a true shame when an audience does not treat a performance with the respect it deserves.

The BSO has several more dates to play at Oregon Ridge this month. Let's hope that these are approached with a greater appreciation for our wonderful orchestra.

Dan Diamond, Ruxton

Mayor recognizes need to raise employees' pay

Hooray for Mayor Martin O'Malley. Finally, a politician that has begun to see the light.

The police department was a great first place to start paying salaries that need to be commensurate with the job. The fire department should be next and should be relatively easy. The third part will take the wisdom of a Solomon. The teachers.

If Baltimore, and I might add the rest of our country, is to begin to become a literate powerhouse, the teaching salaries must be high enough to draw students into teaching as a profession.

It will take time, but this task must be started and accomplished.

Phillip Paul Weiner, Pikesville

Fifth-year school plan discourages effort

The article "Fifth year of high school considered" (July 3) stated that a teachers union president says that is the ideal prescription for those least prepared to continue their education or enter the work force. I disagree.

Why stop at five years? Why not offer free continuing education forever with no expectation of achievement? That way there would be no stigmatizing students by holding them back or adding another year.

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