FMOPL Position Statement on the Greenway Trails Network Plan

The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition is currently undertaking a planning study for a 35-mile multi-modal trail around Baltimore that connects many of Baltimore’s parks and existing trails through a protected walking and biking trail. The Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes (FMOPL) is a member of the coalition and has provided a letter of support for the Greenways Trail Network.  In supporting the study process currently underway, FMOPL reaffirms the local Baltimore City Landmark designation for the “Olmsted Parkways,” for which it provided a leading role, and insists that all alternatives must exemplify the principles that derive from that designation.

FMOPL Position Statement:
FMOPL is committed both to 1) the preservation of Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired, and other open space resources, and 2) incorporation of pedestrian and bike infrastructure designed to current best practices. In consideration of the Greenway Trails Network planning study for the “Olmsted Parkways” route:

  • FMOPL takes the position that it provides an opportunity to complete the recommendations made in the 1904 Plan to provide park-like corridors connecting the various parks and communities throughout the City;
  • And that its goal of finding ways to incorporate well-designed pathways for pedestrian and bicycle use is consistent with the Olmsted vision.
  • As various options are considered, whether within the median or in other forms, they must conform to the set of principles stated above. In particular, protection of the treed and green character of the designated “Olmsted Parkways” must be a major consideration.
  • Ensure a defined maintenance plan for long-term sustainability of the greenway trails network.

The Case for Historic Landmark Designation:
In 1904 the Olmsted Brothers firm produced the comprehensive Report Upon the Development of Public Grounds for Greater Baltimore, which conceptualized a park system for the Baltimore region:

  • called for “parkways” as East-West connectors for Baltimore’s principal parks—especially connecting Clifton Park on the east, Druid Hill Park in the center, and Gwynns Falls part on the west.
  • advanced the goal that parkways “should be treated as far as possible like extensions of the parks to bring them to the people, and place them in touch with each other.” Preferably, parkways should “avoid the petty annoyances and danger of ordinary street travel . . . [and] they “should have comfortable pavements for driving, riding, and walking.” (p. 14)
  • showed the proposed connector parkways as following meandering routes.

Over the next decade the Olmsteds served as consultants to the Baltimore Park Commission, which, in conjunction with the Commission on Street Openings, was responsible for the actual implementation of the parkway plans.

  • Correspondence from the Olmsteds demonstrates that they urged widths to allow for parklike treatment, and a proposed sketch by Olmsted staffer P.R. Jones in 1906 suggested a multi-modal series of tree-lined corridors, providing separately for corridors to accommodate such uses as walking, riding (horseback or biking?), and a central road. However, the Baltimore authorities made it clear immediately that the recommended widths were not feasible.
  • The resulting “parkways,” built by the Baltimore park and road commissions in continuing consultation with the Olmsteds, but not “designed” by them, took the form of the tree-lined central median roadways that resulted in the essential pattern that has prevailed generally for the past century.

Given that historic basis, what should land-marking mean for “the Olmsted Parkways” in relation to the planning process for the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network Proposals?

Landmark designation does not mean that no change whatsoever to what resulted from the original building of the parkway-like streets can be considered; it does mean that the following “principles” should be upheld as consistent with historic precedent:

  • the “park-like” character of the parkways should be maintained and enhanced;
  • any threat to the health of present or future trees should be avoided, since shade trees have been essential to maintaining the parklike character from the inception of the plans;
  • the essential “green” character of the median should be maintained, and any pathways must be designed and maintained in such a way that they preserve and enhance that character.
  • while Olmsted “principles” may have been relatively consistent over time, the long trajectory of Olmsted planning exhibits frequent adaptation to changing times and circumstances, even as exhibited in the reluctant acceptance of the narrower widths of the Baltimore parkways;
  • re-design of these parkways to accommodate a hiking/biking pathway is consistent with models the Olmsteds proposed here and elsewhere and that other planners, past and present, have employed.

Approved by the Board of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes at its meeting of June 14, 2017

Tour: Walking the Paths of Roland Park

Sunday, October 22, 2017, 2-4 pm
$40

A sign for Litchfield Path, one of the
many walking paths in Roland Park.

On this popular seasonal adventure, discover and explore the unique footpaths of the Roland Park community while learning about the history and architecture of the neighborhood. In developing this community in the late 1800s, the Roland Park Company incorporated into its plan a series of footpaths, 18 in all, designed to expedite foot traffic between various sections of the neighborhood, especially in those where the terrain made it difficult to build roads. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., in collaboration with Edward H. Bouton, general manager of the Roland Park Company, the paths were part of a hierarchical system of roads in front of houses, service lanes in the rear, and footpaths that provided convenient ways to cross through the neighborhood in a natural setting. Each path is named with a distinctly country ring: Squirrel, Hilltop, Laurel, Tulip; others are decidedly British: Audley End, Tintern, St. Margaret’s, Litchfield. Come learn about the Olmsted/Bouton legacy while exploring some of these paths.

NOTE: Meet at Roland Park Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 5108 Roland Avenue. Walking on rough terrains and hill is involved. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.

Tour Guides: Judy Dobbs has lived in Roland Park since 1981. As a member of the board of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes, she is committed to promoting the rich heritage of Roland Park and other Olmsted-designed communities in Maryland. For most of her life Kathy Hudson has lived on a Roland Park footpath. She has written about the community, its residents and architecture for more than 25 years in The Baltimore Messenger, The Sun and Baltimore Style magazine. Her recently-released book is On Walnut Hill: The Evolution of a Garden.

Learn more and register here.

Spring Happy Hour: What Would Olmsted Drink?

Thursday, March 23, 2017, 6-8 pm
Cash bar

Surely Olmsted enjoyed a pint of Irish draught!

Even busy Olmsted needed to take a break from the drawing board and have good cheer with friends. Come drink libations and chat with board members and friends of FMOPL at this casual get-together. We’ll be meeting at the Windup Space (12 W. North Ave.)

 

 

 

 

Bike Tour: Olmsted (Beta Test) Bike Tour: Wyman Park to Herring Run and Neighborhoods

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 1-4 pm
FREE; Registration required

Baltimore Bicycle Club ca. 1898 (Courtesy Maryland Historical Society.)

Join our cheery crowd of nerds as we beta-test our new Olmsted bicycle tour through Northeast Baltimore. This biking tour highlights some of the city’s most unique relics, from secret gardens to monumental water systems, adding layers of historic and modern context to sites we pass everyday. Bring plenty of water for this 12 mile ride through Baltimore and Olmsted history.

Note: The tour is FREE, but you must register. Meet on the front steps of the Baltimore Museum of Art

Register here.

Tour: Riverside and Latrobe Parks: Baltimore’s Urban Peninsula Parks

Sunday, April 30, 2-4 pm
$10-15

The pagoda at Riverside Park in the early 20th century.

Join us on a walking tour of two Olmsted-designed parks in South Baltimore. Riverside Park evolved from land critical to the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812 to a public park and gathering space for the surrounding community with the later addition of a pool, playgrounds, sports fields and its trademark gazebo.

The original playground at Latrobe Park.

Designed in 1904, Latrobe Park on Fort Avenue is one of the most fully-realized Baltimore parks planned and developed by the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects in response to the Recreation and Playground movements in the early 20th century. Significant improvements at both parks demonstrate recent strong community partnerships. The tour will consider the long histories of both parks and their current roles in Baltimore’s urban peninsula.

NOTE: Meet at the Gazebo in Riverside Park starting at 1:45 pm. There is free parking on the streets adjacent to the park. (E. Randall St., Johnson St., and Covington St.) This park is also near bus routes and bike routes. After the tour of Riverside Park, carpool to Latrobe Park. At the end of the tour, we will return to Riverside Park.

Tour leaders: Ed Orser and Lauren Schiszik, FMOPL. Tour presenters: Kate Brower and Adam Boarman, City Department of Recreation and Parks; Jackson Fisher, Friends of Riverside Park, Scott Huot, Riverside Park Community, Jillian Storm, author of “Latrobe Park”, The Olmstedian.

Register here.

Tour: Walking the Paths of Roland Park

Sunday, April 9, 2-4 pm
$40

A sign for Litchfield Path, one of the many walking paths in Roland Park.

On this popular seasonal adventure, discover and explore the unique footpaths of the Roland Park community while learning about the history and architecture of the neighborhood. In developing this community in the late 1800s, the Roland Park Company incorporated into its plan a series of footpaths, 18 in all, designed to expedite foot traffic between various sections of the neighborhood, especially in those where the terrain made it difficult to build roads. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., in collaboration with Edward H. Bouton, general manager of the Roland Park Company, the paths were part of a hierarchical system of roads in front of houses, service lanes in the rear, and footpaths that provided convenient ways to cross through the neighborhood in a natural setting. Each path is named with a distinctly country ring: Squirrel, Hilltop, Laurel, Tulip; others are decidedly British: Audley End, Tintern, St. Margaret’s, Litchfield. Come learn about the Olmsted/Bouton legacy while exploring some of these paths.

NOTE: Meet at Roland Park Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 5108 Roland Avenue. Walking on rough terrains and hill is involved. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.

Tour Guides: Judy Dobbs has lived in Roland Park since 1981. As a member of the board of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes, she is committed to promoting the rich heritage of Roland Park and other Olmsted-designed communities in Maryland. For most of her life Kathy Hudson has lived on a Roland Park footpath. She has written about the community, its residents and architecture for more than 25 years in The Baltimore Messenger, The Sun and Baltimore Style magazine. Her recently-released book is On Walnut Hill: The Evolution of a Garden.

Learn more and register here.

A large audience turned out for the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks and Landscapes (FMOPL) 2015 Annual Meeting on June 24 to hear Lisa Schroeder, recently-appointed President and CEO for the Parks & People Foundation, reflect on “Parks and Open Spaces: Lessons from the Pittsburgh Experience.”

Lisa Schroeder provides lessons from Pittsburgh.

Lisa Schroeder provides lessons from Pittsburgh.

Lisa Schroeder brings to Baltimore her 15-year experience heading up Pittsburgh’s non-profit Riverlife organization. There she oversaw its trajectory from a start-up into a civic force responsible for the redevelopment of Pittsburgh’s riverfronts— eventually transforming 63 acres of green landscapes, trails and bridge connections into Three Rivers Park, a grand, 13-mile continuous loop of riverfront parks and trails.

What can Baltimore learn from Pittsburgh? Ms. Schroeder offered ten guiding principles:

  1. Think bold and act like you mean it
  2. Listen (especially to the non-choir)
  3. Bring the best, most open minds to the table
  4. Don’t just plan; IMPLEMENT!
  5. Partnership, Partnership, Partnership
  6. Pay attention to details and to the edges
  7. Keep aiming for the high bar
  8. Believe in the power of value creation
  9. If you build it, and make it open to ALL, they will come
  10. Believe that people in a struggling city deserve the best

These principles are a timely reminder of the work ahead if we are collectively going to improve, expand, and re-imagine the area’s parks and public open spaces. They are also a testament to the bold vision of the Olmsteds, who advocated for public parks that were democratic spaces, connected communities and regions, were well designed, and accessible to ALL citizens. FMOPL looks forward to helping to working with Ms. Schroeder to advance these principles to create a greener, more just city.

Freshly-elected Board President Mark Cameron and Secretary Katie Dix chat with Lisa Schroeder at the reception.

Freshly-elected Board President Mark Cameron and Secretary Katie Dix chat with Lisa Schroeder at the reception.

Board members Archana Sharma, Candace Chance, and Sarah Hope.

Board members Archana Sharma, Candace Chance, and Sarah Hope.

Lively discussions at the Annual Meeting reception.

Lively discussions at the Annual Meeting reception.

Emeritus Directors Judy Dobbs and Sandy Sparks thanking outgoing Board President Ed Orser for his leadership.

Emeritus Directors Judy Dobbs and Sandy Sparks thanking outgoing Board President Ed Orser for his leadership.

Open Letter: Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes supports the designation of the Olmsted Parkways

We are pleased to share this open letter in support of the designation of The Alameda, 33rd Street, and Gwynns Falls Parkway as local landmarks by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.


December 19, 2014
Mr. Tom Liebel, Chairman
Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation
417 E. Fayette St, 8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

Dear Mr. Liebel:

The Board of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes affirms its strong support for Baltimore City Council Bill 14-0453 to designate the Olmsted Parkways—The Alameda, 33rd Street, and Gwynns Falls Parkway—as City Landmarks.

Baltimore’s principal east-west parkways represent a 100-year-old heritage, fulfilling the vision of the Olmsteds and the city’s planners and civic leaders to provide a green corridor connecting parks, afford green spaces for neighborhoods along the route, and contribute immeasurably to the quality of life for Baltimore’s citizens. These are not simply tree-lined roadways, but important linkages in Baltimore’s comprehensive park and parkway system.

The accompanying statement provides commentary on the role of the Olmsteds in the planning of Baltimore’s parkways and the subsequent history of the parkways over the succeeding century.

As an organization committed to recognition of the substantial contribution of the Olmsteds in the planning of Baltimore’s landscape, in which the parkways were a key element, the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsteds Parks & Landscapes believe enactment of this bill is imperative to assure that the Olmsted Parkways receive the acknowledgment, protection, and enhancement that they deserve.

Sincerely yours,
Ed Orser, President, Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscapes

Rutherford Platt’s lecture on the Humane Metropolis since Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. believed that the built environment could promote democratic values and behaviors. He put this belief into practice, designing public parks to be accessible to all, places that allowed rich and poor to come together for recreation and sociability. Olmsted also advocated for the creation of public parks in towns and cities across the country, speaking with civic leaders, civic associations, and city officials.

Through his actions, public parks and parkways became important civic institutions, guiding the expansion and renewal of cities in the 20th century. While still embodying democratic ideals, what was missing in these park systems was a democratic voice; decisions and designs were created from the “top down” by civic leaders who were typically white, male, and often wealthy.

Platt lecture

Rutherford Platt presenting on the concept of a Humane Metropolis.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014,Rutherford Platt offered ideas for adding a democratic voice in his talk “Reclaiming American Cities” at the Maryland Historical Society. Co-sponsored by the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks and Landscapes (FMOPL), Baltimore City Historical Society, and the Maryland Historical Society, Platt’s talk was a follow-up to his conference “The Humane Metropolis” held in Baltimore in 2009.

The idea behind the humane metropolis is to re-imagine our cities in a participatory manner, creating places that are green, healthy, safe, efficient (in the use of resources), equitable, and neighborly. To achieve these goals, cities need to embrace grass-roots, bottom-up efforts rather than simply a benevolent top-down approach. Pratt provided several case studies from the past century that highlighted both approaches – Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and Hull House, Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs in New York were but a few. He concluded his talk by offering that in order for grass-roots efforts to be effective, what was needed were enlightened leaders (at the city and community levels), trust and cooperation, innovative institutions, funding, and community participation.

As exemplified by Olmsted, a top-down vision, and ability to fund and execute that vision, can result in wonderful places. However, grass-roots, community-based approaches as highlighted by Platt, can also be successful. While both are needed, what is the relationship between the two? How do we create a “both-and” rather than an “either-or”? One example that was briefly mentioned was the creation of the High Line, which started as a grass-roots effort to reclaim the abandoned rail line but required civic leadership and funding to become a reality.

The mission of FMOPL is to celebrate the Olmsted legacy in Baltimore and to promote those Olmstedian principles that are still relevant and needed today, in particular the creation of democratic spaces in the broadest sense of the term. Platt offers important touchstones for achieving this vision and helping to re-create Baltimore in a humane manner.

Rutherford Platt speaking to a packed house at the Maryland Historical Society.

Rutherford Platt speaking to a packed house at the Maryland Historical Society.

 

Platt speaking with folks after the event.

Platt speaking with folks after the event.

 

 

Ed Orser, FMOPL President, welcoming attendees and introducing Platt.

Ed Orser, FMOPL President, welcoming attendees and introducing Platt.