Save city's greenery

July 17, 2000|By Myles B. Hoenig

A QUIET assault on the environment is occurring in a hamlet in Baltimore and the powers that be are counting on a defeated populace to accept it.

But years of community complacency and frustration were replaced by the energy that comes from anger and determination at a public community meeting June 29.

Initially, the target of the concern was MTA's proposed 500-car parking lot in one of Baltimore's remaining forests. It was quite clear, however, that the real concern was for the entire forested area, not merely for one plot of land.

For decades, parts of the forest of Woodberry have been used for legal and illegal dumping. Now the entire region is seen as a piece of real estate to be parceled into plots for interests far removed from the residents of the area.

The meeting with MTA turned raucous. It was probably not what MTA's representatives had envisioned. Perhaps they expected some questions but overall support. Then, they could proceed with their development plans and say they had their required public meeting, as called for by the system.

Why do they want this parking lot? MTA says it's to relieve the congestion at the lots that are filled. Yet other lots are rarely full. Wouldn't a more reasonable approach be to enhance and enlarge existing lots rather than add new ones?

As if this wasn't enough, Loyola College reminded us that it wants to purchase 51 acres of this urban forest from the city to create private playing fields so it can be more competitive in collegiate sports.

The additional environmental assault on the land and Jones Falls is incalculable. This proposal serves no benefit to anyone other than Loyola enthusiasts. Loyola is an institutional intruder and its presence complicates efforts to maintain the green quality and benefits of this land.

The master plan being devised by many interests to look at the entire Jones Falls area, including much of Woodberry, will be welcome. Although the presence of a light rail station may justify a parking lot nearby, the design, location in a flood plain and size for 500 cars is far too grandiose.

A refreshing note was that the MTA publicly agreed to work with Klaus Philipsen, one of the original designers of the light rail system and one who sees a need for a more cautious approach.

Our remaining green spaces in Baltimore should be viewed as a treasure, not more common ground to be taken from the citizens of this city.

Myles B. Hoenig is a community activist and former staff director of Clean Water Action.

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