The members of the Patterson Park Working Group have taken on a serious assignment—read the 44-page (plus graphics and appendices) Patterson Park Master Plan, completed in 1998, and decide what needs to be addressed, updated, or changed.
First District Councilman Jim Kraft put together the Working Group on the orders of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, after a huge public outcry against a proposal to add 90-odd parking spaces to Patterson Park. The parking had been proposed to accomodate renovations and expansion of the Virginia Baker Recreation Center and a proposal that the activities of the John Booth Senior Center be moved to the park’s Casino building.
The Working Group, which includes Kraft, has a member and alternate from each of the seven community associations around the park: the Butchers Hill Association, Canton Community Association, Fell’s Prospect Community Association, Hampstead Hill Association, Highlandtown Community Association, Patterson Park Neighborhood Association, and Patterson Place Association. There are members representing the “umbrella groups” concerned with the park, including the Audubon Society, Friends of Patterson Park, Parks and People Foundation, and the Southeast Community Development Corporation.
City agencies are also represented, including the Department of Recreation and Parks, Health Department, Department of Transportation, Department of Planning, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods. Delegate Pete Hammen of the 46th District is also in the group.
Bill Vondrasek, acting director of the Recreation and Parks Department, chairs the working group. All group communications go through the Recreation and Parks Department.
Some individuals in the roughly two-dozen-member Working Group thought that they had signed on simply to address the parking problem.
“I don’t think people are here to review the Master Plan,” said Ann Carmody, a representative of the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association.
She said that the real concern was the proposal to add parking, against which nearly 500 residents protested at a community meeting on Oct. 1.
“People are here to talk about what that meeting was about,” she said.
Chris Ryer, head of the Southeast CDC, said that in his opinion, addressing the current issues in the park without incorporating the Master Plan into the process would be, counterintuitively, “an unbelievably large task.”
Jean Pula, representing the Hampstead Hill Association, commented that the public outcry against the parking proposal had perhaps made city officials realize that they were “spot checking” the park’s development, rather than focusing on it as a cohesive unit.
“I think the idea is, we read the Master Plan and start with a clean slate,” said Vondrasek.
Once the Working Group reaches a consensus on plans for the park, the Department of Recreation and Parks will put them into its proposed budget as capital improvement plans. The City Council and mayor then “approve it or change it,” he said.
Gennady Schwartz, head of the engineering division of Rec and Parks, said that the landscape design firm Mahan Rykiel would, in all likelihood, be brought in to facilitate the process and formulate design options from the Working Group’s ideas and recommendations.
The group will be meeting on a monthly basis; the next meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 12, 7-9 p.m., at the Virginia Baker Recreation Center. An informal planning committee, open to anybody interested in Patterson Park, has also been established.
by Erik Zygmont