Treed site in city noted

Woodberry land gets national recognition for scenic value

Sports complex planned

Neighbors, Loyola at odds over project

November 25, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Loyola College officials say they will continue with plans to build a sports complex in a wooded area of North Baltimore, even though the land was recently designated a "Last Chance Landscape" by a national scenic conservation organization.

The Woodberry Watershed Forest was one of 10 places nationwide to receive the designation this month by Scenic America, which works with communities to preserve and enhance their visual environments, said Steve Strohmeier, program associate. Sixty nominations were received, he said.

Woodberry residents, many of them staunch foes of the proposed sports complex - which is to include an intercollegiate athletic field with 6,000 spectator seats for lacrosse or soccer, along with two smaller practice fields - hope the designation will make Loyola and city officials think twice about their plans.

They also hope the national attention will lead to legal assistance and funding "to stop this project," said Jan Danforth, a resident and co-founder of the Urban Forest Initiative and Woodberry Land Trust.

However, the Scenic America designation carries no legal weight.

"The whole idea of this nomination is to help local activists strengthen their arguments for preserving the landscape," Strohmeier said. "This is an honorary designation to bring attention to the landscape and to show that it's characteristic of what's happening in many parts of the country - the loss of the visual environment and open, urban spaces to development."

Terrence M. Sawyer, special assistant to the president at Loyola, said last week that he wasn't aware of the Scenic America designation and couldn't comment on it.

"My immediate reaction would be that it does not change the college's intention or our position with regard to our plans for the site," Sawyer said. "We are looking forward to continued negotiations and discussions with the community."

Sawyer said Loyola officials have had more than 20 meetings with members of the Woodberry Planning Committee in the past three years.

On Nov. 1, the city Planning Commission unanimously approved the school's proposed acquisition of 71 acres for the sports complex, which could eventually include outdoor tennis courts. Susan Williams of the planning department said the next step is a land-use hearing, though that has not been scheduled.

Danforth said the project is ill-advised and is opposed by people who live in adjacent neighborhoods.

"We do not accept that they're going to build this," she said. "These neighborhoods do not want this."

She said when people bought properties in the Woodberry neighborhood, "they bought because of the green character of it, because they were next to woods, something that people leave the city to get to."

Sawyer said Loyola has tailored its plan to preserve much of the wooded area.

"We ... have spent a tremendous amount of energy to focus our development on previously disturbed areas which were disturbed by the landfill that existed on this site for decades," he said. "In addition, we have agreed to take the majority of the high-quality forest on site and place that into forest conservation easements, which would total 30 acres worth of forest conservation, or close to half the site."

City planning officials have said some of the land would be preserved for a greenway connecting Druid Hill Park and Cylburn Arboretum.

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