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Reinvesting in Baltimore’s Green Gems

A recent article in Urbanite Baltimore discusses Baltimore’s third place ranking of parkland per 1,000 residents when compared to cities of similar population density.  But when compared to spending per resident, Baltimore ranks 49th and is tied with Philadelphia and Arlington, Texas.

In the 19th century, Baltimore was one of the greenest cities, with the creation of Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park and others.  But as other older cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston have made huge investments in their park systems by adding new glamour parks, Baltimore has been neglecting its own green gems.

The biggest problem in Baltimore has been a lack of working together between the private sector and the public agency,” [Peter] Harnik says. “The private sector can’t do it alone, and in 90 percent of all cities the public sector can’t do it alone either.

While the poor economy has depleted city funds, the general lack of support from government and local businesses has not helped the situation.  To make matters worse, there has also been high turnover among staff in the Parks and Recreation Department.

There have been some successes, namely with the work of the neighborhood group Friends of Patterson Park, but much more is needed.

“I would like to see that every park has a ‘Friends’ group, and every city has an umbrella group that lobbies the city council and lobbies the mayor, almost like a union,” Harnik says. The city also needs a deep-pocketed conservancy that channels private contributions to parks. “They’re the ones that step up to the plate and do extraordinary fundraising to build a beautiful parks system.”

For a more in-depth discussion of the work the Friends of Patterson Park have done in Baltimore, read this article from Landscape Architecture.  For more information about Druid Hill Park, see an earlier post.

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