Leisurely pace brought to JFX

Pedestrians, cyclists get Jones Falls view via highway vantage

October 15, 2001|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Walking along the Jones Falls Expressway, John Dye kept looking over his shoulder yesterday morning.

Sure, the northbound lanes were shut down to cars and trucks. But that didn't make it any less strange to walk down the center lane of a highway - particularly when the sound of speeding traffic from the opposite side of the JFX was easy to hear.

"You keep thinking a car is going to whiz by," said Dye, 56, who lives in Columbia and is a member of the Columbia Volksmarch Club. "It's a weird feeling."

For the fourth annual Jones Falls Valley Celebration, city officials blocked off the three northbound lanes of the JFX yesterday morning. It gave 600 runners the space for the Jones Falls 8-Kilometer Express. Hundreds more walkers, cyclists and inline skaters took a leisurely tour of a road they normally see at 50 mph.

"You get to see parts of the road that you'd never see speeding by on the freeway, even if you drive this road every day," said John Nolan of Catonsville, who maintains the Web site for the Baltimore Walking Club and turns 59 today.

Organizers of the celebration hope that as people like Nolan walk along the JFX, they'll come to appreciate the Jones Falls Valley and take an active part in preserving it.

"People can see how much is really here in the Jones Falls," said Bill Miller, executive director of Greater Homewood Community Corp., one of the groups that helped organize the festival. "There are places along the water where you'd never realize you were under a highway. You would think you're someplace in West Virginia."

Victoria Davis, 6, loved the view along the highway. Pushing down the middle of the road on her scooter, she easily outpaced her grandmother, Audrey Davis.

"This is fun," said the first-grader, who lives in Clarksville. "There is so much more room here than at home."

Yesterday's celebration began with the morning closure of the JFX, and it included a full day of activities. Kayakers and canoeists spent the early afternoon traveling down the waterway. A festival near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum included live music, food, tree plantings, T-shirt sales and streetcar rides. The Mount Washington Wine and Jazz Festival concluded the afternoon.

The Jones Falls celebration was originally scheduled for mid-September, but it was pushed back a month because of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

With the later date, some people who toured the JFX got a sneak preview of something that's been closed for months - the northbound entrance ramp from Charles Street near the train station. No date has been set for the ramp to reopen, but event organizers said they've been told it should be within a few weeks.

"We're very excited that the ramp is going to be opening soon," said Sandy Sparks, executive director of the Midtown Community Benefits District, another sponsor of the celebration. "People have been waiting a long time, and it should really help cut down on our traffic problem."

Other sponsors of yesterday's event included the Jones Falls Watershed Association and the Parks and People Foundation.

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