Baltimore, MD

Baltimore's Reimagined Druid Hill Park Gets Closer to Completion

Susan Kelley

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Druid Hill Park BaltimoreImage Courtesy of Visit Baltimore

As the project nears the halfway point, city planners in Baltimore are plotting their next steps in the overhaul of Druid Lake Reservoir. Among the proposals already under consideration are an amphitheater for small live concerts, a wildlife conservatory, and a lakeside cafe. Each of these would bring welcome improvements to Baltimore's Druid Hill Park, an under-utilized area of the city in need of improvement and reimagination.

The current renovation project includes a massive water improvement plan to the Druid Lake Reservoir in which two storage water tanks were buried under the lake in an effort to increase the efficiency of water reserve turnover to improve the quality of drinking water. That phase of the project got underway in June of 2017. The primary focus was to protect the water supply for Baltimoreans, but the effort was transformed from a public works project into an "effort to beautify and enhance Druid Hill Park" according to Councilman Leon Pinkett of Baltimore’s 7th District, which encompasses the park.

Thanks to input from area residents and the Baltimore community at large, the project now includes plans for improvements throughout Druid Hill Park, and is expected to be completed by March 2022. Baltimore City Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Parks Department are both working together on the project valued at $135 million. Project manager Omar Morsey believes that the March, 2022 timeline is entirely reasonable to complete project items like a shoreline with swimming, community artwork, and bike paths in the newly completed area.

City planners are also considering the natural habitat that is important to the park area. They are exploring options that could include wetlands and connecting and incorporating the manmade lake to some of the natural geology and hydrology in the park to maintain a healthier lake environment. Doing so might include kayaking or boating opportunities within the system, encouraging wildlife like ducks and geese, introducing native plants to the area, and more.

Adam Boarman, the recreation department’s chief of capital development, hopes the park and reservoir will be a prime destination in the city. "The existing lake is a sterile, chlorinated drinking reservoir, and our goal is to convert that to a habit-sustaining body of water," he said. Boarman also sees an opportunity to introduce fish, native plants, and turtles into the reservoir and to foster healthy natural habitats in an otherwise urban environment. He pointed to the rising interest in boating, birding, and fishing as a prime reason to burture this type of development locally.

Pinkett noted that, “It could benefit from having spaces that really allow for community gathering and activating some of that green space. This construction project presents a unique opportunity to really address some access issues that have long been neglected.” The hope is to revitalize Druid Hill park as not just a city park, but a regional one, attracting visitors from many areas. In order to do so, planers note that the undertaking will involve more than just the reservoir upgrades and renovation, and will span a multi-year multi-project undertaking.

Boarman notes that, "we want to gather feedback from the community, look at [Druid Hill] as a regional destination, and figure out what kind of amenities people are looking for." He is in favor of not just the natural upgrades, but also of introducing features like an amphitheatre, paralleling Frank Gehry's work in Chicago's Millenium Park as a noteworthy example. Community feedback is an essential part of the planning and execution; the city has hosted two online community meetings to gather feedback about the proposed visions, and has reached out to residents in neighborhoods surrounding the park as well as conducted online surveys.

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Susan is a runner, avid traveler, mom of three grown children, and a newly-transplanted Baltimorean who follows tech trends, especially at the intersection of health and the public good. Sound intriguing? It is. Often, technology is at odds with the "earthy-crunchy," but sometimes, it is a real boost. Susan is an avowed supporter of women's and human rights, so that situates well here.

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