Celebrate the waterway under the highway

Run, bike or paddle to help Jones Falls


September 15, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

When Susan O'Brien was little, she said, she would play in a stream near West Joppa and Thornton roads. She didn't know it at the time, but that stream fed into the Jones Falls, which flows under Interstate 83 and eventually into the Harbor.

Now, O'Brien helps organize the Jones Falls Valley Celebration, which raises awareness of the need to restore the falls. This year's daylong outdoor celebration is from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

"People, when they think Jones Falls, all they think of is I-83 South," O'Brien said. "This is a way to remind people that I-83, almost in its entirety from south of the county line, is a bridge over the Jones Falls."

FOR THE RECORD - The correct location for Poly-Western High School is Coldspring Lane and Falls Road.
The Sun regrets the error.

Festivities include a five-mile race, 15K bike race, floating plastic frog race, live music and kayaking and canoeing. Two bands, Mostly Mortal Wombat and the Crawdaddies, will play from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A children's Moon Bounce, balloon art and face painting are new this year.

Jones Falls Watershed Association, sponsor of the event, will shut down I-83's northbound lanes from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. The area from the Fayette Street exit to the Northern Parkway exit will be open for walking, skateboarding and biking at 11 a.m.

Below the expressway, about 70 kayakers and canoers will paddle through some of the falls' stretches. The wetter half of the event starts at Lake Roland and goes downriver to Meadow Mill, said Eric Schott, president of the Jones Falls Watershed Association board.

The more experienced kayakers can continue past Meadow Mill to Round Falls, where there are more challenging rapids and drops, he said. When they get to Round Falls, they typically splash around in the waves at the bottom of the waterfalls, he said.

While the Jones Falls Association will provide kayaks and canoes, most people prefer to bring their own, Schott said. People will drive from Western Maryland and West Virginia to float down the falls, he said. The uniqueness of the situation appeals to them, he said.

"You get a perspective of Baltimore that is unattainable from any other perspective," Schott said. "You can't explain how it looks from the river, because you're down in this green area that is inaccessible by road or by path. ... Also, where else can you kayak right under the bridge supports of an interstate?"

Patrons who would rather keep their feet on land can enter the frog-floating race. Each plastic frog has a number on its bottom. The frogs will float down the falls from the Northern Parkway ramp to Cold Spring Lane, where the first-place frog will be announced.

The Jones Falls Valley Celebration is 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday on I-83 North from the Fayette Street exit to the Northern Parkway exit. Parking is available at Poly-Western Schools on Northern Parkway at Falls Road. The five-mile foot race starts at 8 a.m. Registration is $25 in advance and $30 on race day. The 15K bike race starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration is $25, and bikers must register from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Joe's Bike Shop, 5813 Falls Road. From 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., I-83 North will be open for the public to bike, skateboard, rollerskate, run and walk. Plastic frogs for the frog race are $5 each or five for $20. Proceeds benefit the Jones Falls Watershed Association's restoration programs. The Jones Falls paddle starts at 9 a.m. at Lake Roland in Robert E. Lee Park, off Falls Road. Registration is $20 in advance and $25 at the event. Call 410-261-3515 or visit www.jonesfalls.com.

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