Get up, Get out

August 08, 2004

WHEN THE CITY fathers decided to cut a lake into a 60-acre swath of North Baltimore farmland, men and horses did the work. They took four years to do it and dammed a stream to fill it. They called it Lake Montebello, and the year was 1881.

To dredge the lake today and repave the roadway around it will take almost as long as the original excavation, which began in 1878. A necessity for BaltimoreM-Fs water filtration system, the project will disrupt the daily routines of the lakeM-Fs recreational strollers, joggers, bicyclists, power walkers, skateboarders and inline skaters. But Lake MontebelloM-Fs loss should be Druid Hill ParkM-Fs gain. There are footways and byways and bikeways in Herring Run, along the Gwynns Falls Trail and through Patterson Park.

The convenience of Lake Montebello canM-Ft be beat for its neighbors and the nearby residents of Mayfield, Lauraville and Arcadia: an asphalt path stretching about 1.3 miles around an oasis of water. Beginning next year, for the first five months, the recreational path will be off limits. Then, about half of it will be open for recreation and remain that way for at least 28 months. Not a happy prospect.

But the answer isnM-Ft to pack up your gear and head to the nearest gym, or worse M-y sleep in. Take the opportunity to scout new city venues for that early morning run, lunch-hour walk or after-work ride. Montebello fans should wander over to Herring Run Park. Its gently rolling pathway offers shade trees and a stream and the company of dog-walkers.

Early risers should head for Cylburn Arboretum, open from dawn to dusk. It has 220 acres of woodlands and flora with four miles of pathways. In fall, the maples shine autumnal. In spring, thousands of daffodils shout yellow! Boxwoods, magnolia, maples and conifers vie for your attention. Its All- America Selections garden, one of only two in the state, offers the best varieties of impatiens, marigolds and celosiaM-Fs purple plumes of fire, to name a few.

Bikers and hikers who choose the 7.5-mile stretch of the Gwynns Falls Trail will pass by wetlands and meadows, and perhaps catch a great blue heron in flight. Middle Branch Park, south of South Baltimore, offers a waterfront escape for runners. Skateboarders can swoop and loop, dip and dive in the shadow of the Carroll Mansion in Carroll Park.

Dredging 35,000 tons of muck from Lake Montebello will take time M-y and who knows what theyM-Fll find. (When the lake was last dredged in 1970, police found the remains of a missing man in a 1948 Nash.) But there are ways to channel the lakeM-Fs popularity to other city greenways M-y tap into that oldfashioned get up and go.

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