Druid Heights Gateway Park

July, 11 2019
Natalia Sanchez

There is an urgent need to revitalize the Druid Heights neighborhood of Baltimore City. According to the City’s vacancy data from May 2017, 42% of the community’s total land area was comprised of either vacant lots or abandoned buildings. Only three public parks, totaling less than half an acre in size and covering less than 1% of the total land area were located in the community. 

The Druid Heights Community Development Corporation (DHCDC), whose mission is to “cause, encourage, and promote community self-empowerment” identified lots that were prime locations for park space. Parks can serve as both green spaces to treat polluted stormwater runoff and as safe community gathering spaces for residents to socialize and enjoy nature. Before the Gateway Park was installed Executive Director Anthony Pressley reflected:

“Here at the corner of North and Druid Hill Avenue, there's a lot of busy foot traffic, lots of noise, and a whole lot of pollution and trash. Starting here, in the gateway of the community, will show residents how we can start at the top and spread change throughout this area. The impact will be everlasting in Druid Heights.”

Drawing from the success of the previously completed Peace Park, DHCDC had partners in place to help. The University of Maryland’s Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition, and Blue Water Baltimore, all played a role in securing funding, creating a design for the site, creating and developing a maintenance plan. Funding for the project was provided by Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  

The process of applying for grant funding can be a large administrative burden and the state agencies looked for ways to make their financial resources more accessible. These efforts lead to DNR leveraging not only DHCD's funding but also their competitive solicitation process. Speaking on what made the Gateway Park Project in Druid Heights compelling, Gabe Cohee, who oversees the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund grant program at DNR said:

“Restoration work in urban areas has proven to be more expensive than elsewhere in the watershed due to an abundance of impervious surface, infrastructure, and competing land priorities. For these reasons, the urban sector is falling behind in meeting pollution reduction goals and urban practices are generally not competing well in our Trust Fund cost-effectiveness review. To address this, the Trust Fund began discussing opportunities to leverage funding at the Department of Housing and Community Development which is focused on removing blight and creating green public space. Our goal is to leverage the DHCD funding and mobilization in urban neighborhoods to augment the effort with Trust Fund dollars to ensure that water quality features are included in their green space plans, such as tree plantings, rain gardens, and other stormwater management.”

Gateway Park in Druid Heights is an example of how green space projects can have a myriad of benefits. Not only will the outcome include better onsite management of stormwater runoff in order to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, the park also removes blight and improves air quality, increases home values, and provides recreation opportunities in Druid Heights. Funders hope that this demonstration project will serve as a model for future community-led projects

Project Location:  Baltimore City, MD

Type of Project:  Other - Reclaiming and Repurposing

Project Size: 10 trees & 3 bioretention areas totaling 636 ft

Pollution Reduction: 0.26 lbs nitrogen, 0.01 lbs phosphorus, 20 lbs sediment

Cost:  $250,000

Funding Sources:  Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

Partners: Druid Heights CDC, University of Maryland Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Druid Heights Green Thumb Club, Blue Water Baltimore, Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition

Contact:  Tavon Benson | tbenson@druidheights.com