Envisioning a Baltimore united through one connected park

December 13, 2007|By Steve Ziger

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized. - Daniel Burnham, 1846-1912, architect, urban visionary Imagine a Baltimore where everyone lived within a few blocks of a park. Where you could walk easily throughout the city in a safe "green network" connecting school playgrounds, tree-lined boulevards, community gardens, college campuses, public golf courses, recreational areas and parks.

As you walked, people would be commuting on bicycle trails or participating in marathons. Children would plant and care for trees as a part of their environmental curriculum. Neighbors would grow their own vegetables. Our extensive canopy of trees would provide shade, filter pollution and help filter rainwater and prevent flooding.

Baltimore would become known as a "city in a park," attracting businesses, residents and visitors. Tax revenues would increase along with property values. Communities would come together. The healthier environment would improve our public health, with cleaner air and water, and lots of great reasons to be outside.

This is the vision of "One Park," a concept of the Parks and People Foundation (www.parks andpeople.org) to unite our diverse neighborhoods in a network of enhanced and interconnected open spaces. The nature of these connections would vary in each location, with specific designs coming from local communities and stakeholders.

Here's one example of how One Park could clarify and encourage policy: The Department of Public Works runs a large salt operation from a historic roundhouse along the Jones Falls. It would like to move and free the site for public use, but can find no appropriate alternative. Meanwhile, the west side's underused U.S. 40 offers a great opportunity. By framing a new park at street level above the sunken portions of the highway, we could heal the broken connections between neighborhoods and create a large, enclosed space below in which to relocate the DPW salt operation and other needed public services. The green space above could include a tree nursery to provide the city with trees and the community with jobs and training. Consolidation frees up key properties throughout the city for potential open space or income-generating development.

One Park is no "little plan." It is a simple vision to inspire and direct the future of our beloved Baltimore.

Steve Ziger is a founding partner of Ziger/Snead Architects in Baltimore and trustee of the Parks and People Foundation. This article and responses to it are posted at www.audaciousideas.org, a blog created by Open Society Institute-Baltimore to stimulate ideas and discussion about solutions to difficult problems in the city.

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