Perking up the park

November 24, 2009

It's welcome news that Baltimore County is taking over operations and maintenance of Robert E. Lee Park, with plans to devote more attention to this hidden gem than the city, which actually owns the land, has been able to offer. The most visible sign of that change is the replacement of the pedestrian bridge just downstream from the dam on Lake Roland; two weeks ago, work crews tore down the old, structurally unstable bridge, and a new one will be built over the coming months. But the county has more plans in mind in the hope that by improving the facilities it can double park use from about 41,000 visitors a year to 100,000 or more.

No doubt the place could use some improving. The bathrooms have been shuttered for years, and the water fountains don't work. There are significant erosion problems around the lake, and the trails are often blocked off by fallen trees and aren't well marked under the best of circumstances.

But a big part of the park's appeal is its serenity and remoteness. Though tucked between Towson, Ruxton and Mount Washington, the park is a little bit hard to find and not particularly welcoming, in the sense that there's no proper parking lot and the eastern and western sections of the park can only be traversed by scrambling down a steep embankment and crossing over the light rail tracks. The haphazard facilities and maintenance contributed to an aura that the park had been forgotten and was being reclaimed by the wildlife - and the lucky few people who knew about it. County officials say they want to maintain the character of the park, and we hope they do. Here are a few suggestions for improvements that won't destroy what's good about the park in the first place.

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