Mayor extends an olive branch to Patterson Park

Says the city will work with community and councilman to craft a new master plan

patterson crowd tree falls

Opponents of a plan to add parking to Patterson Park packed the rec center there last night.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Less than 24 hours after a passionate crowd from one of Baltimore’s most vibrant neighborhoods met to condemn her Patterson Park parking proposal, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement acknowledging the opposition.

“Today, I’ve ordered the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Health Department to work with Councilman Kraft and community stakeholders to create a Patterson Park Master Plan Working Group,” said the statement Rawlings-Blake released to the media this afternoon and Tweeted as well.

This updating of the 1998 Master Plan for the park, she wrote, “will not proceed with any proposal without significant community input.”

Rawlings-Blake has had little to say publicly about her administration’s proposal to add 96 parking spaces and a loop road to Patterson Park, but residents have organized vigorously against it, saying the park needs less pavement and fewer cars. An online petition opposing the plan has gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

Until now, her most extensive public statements on the project have focused on criticizing Councilman James B. Kraft (who disclosed the project to the community) for “poisoning the well.”

“She Heard Us”

Residents called the mayor’s statement a positive sign and applauded the gesture.

“She definitely heard the community and heard the people and that’s great,” said Greg Walsh, who started the online petition campaign.

“How I read this is, the plans we saw with that road and those parking spaces – that all gets scrapped.” Walsh said, adding, “Of course, I could be naive here.”

What is going to happen to the seniors? (Photo by Fern Shen)

What is going to happen to the seniors? (Photo by Fern Shen)

He said, however, he feels “really bad for the senior citizens.” (The ill-fated loop road project was hatched as a part of the solution for where to put seniors displaced by the closure of the John Booth Center in Highlandtown.)

More Problem-Solving Needed

“That’s the conversation I hope we can have next as part of this,” Walsh said. “That and transit. Maybe there needs to be an Eastside branch of the [Charm City] Circulator to help seniors get around.”

Walsh urged residents to attend the other three meetings on the issue planned by Councilman Kraft.

“Maybe there can be more of a dialogue now and less therapy,” he said.
Here’s the full text of the mayor’s statement:

Dear Citizen,

My administration’s goal is always to improve and enhance our city parks, including creating green space in our neighborhoods and supporting recreational opportunities for children, adults, and seniors.

Today, I’ve ordered the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Health Department to work with Councilman Kraft and community stakeholders to create a Patterson Park Master Plan Working Group. The working group will be charged with building upon the existing master plan to create comprehensive, community-driven strategies to enhance green space, increase traffic safety, and facilitate improved recreational opportunities in and around Patterson Park. The Department of Recreation and Parks will keep residents informed of working group activities.

My administration is committed to working closely with the community to accomplish these goals, and will not proceed with any proposal without significant community input. Enhancing our parks and supporting the needs of our seniors are not mutually exclusive goals.

I want to thank the citizens who enjoy Patterson Park for being engaged and for their support of one of Baltimore’s great community assets.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
City of Baltimore

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  • Glenn Ricci

    Thanks for staying on this story!

  • Jamie Schott

    I really feel sorry for the director of the Health Dept.  It seems like she is being thrown under the bus on this one.  The HD is not the one asking for 96 parking spaces and don’t need any more parking spaces than is already there but somehow she is getting dumped on here.  We still don’t know why 96 spaces are needed and who is asking for them.  I think we’re just starting to peel the onion here.  Keep it up, Brew.  Glad yer on it.

    • Darlene

      You may be right. Dr. Barbot seemed much more reasonable than Mr. Vondrasek. All he wanted to talk about was how volleyball players couldn’t possibly walk a mile home from a game and umpires needed cars in the park so they could collect cash from softball players. Has the softball league not heard of PayPal?

    • Anne Fresia

       I couldn’t decide if she was thrown under the bus or if she changed her story when facing the crowd. if what she said is true, there is no reason why they couldn’t go ahead with the senior center given that the casino already has parking for some number of cars and I don’t see why some of the overflow couldn’t go to the rec center lots which can hold at least ten 10 cars.

  • Lucius Modernus

    “I want to thank the citizens who enjoy Patterson Park for being engaged and for their support of one of Baltimore’s great community assets.”

    …easily done by showing up at a meeting.  ”Wanting to thank” tangibly means nothing.

  • Scott

    This is truly good news! 

  • Steven Parke

    This doesn’t mean much. They always say they are involving the citizens but often do exactly what they want in the end. If the city had not allowed for the kind of insane expansion in Canton there probably would not have been so many problems for the elderly. Development would have expanded north instead of going UP in high density mid rises in Canton. North expansion would have opened up more decent areas for people to live and greater room for converting inexpensive large spaces for seniors in what could be a safe neighborhood as those expansion happened. I hope things go the way of the protestors (I was one of them) but this cities governing bodies are so corrupt that the citizens are only represented by accident most of the time. Maybe Patterson/Canton has enough tax / voting base to get what they want.

  • Mike

    Maybe it’s my lack of trust in this administration, but I read that letter more as a promise to add speed bumps to any added pavement rather than scrapping their plans altogether.

  • Cherylatkins7

    If what she says is true then why were they even thinking of doing that in the first place?

  • Jeri

    Thanks to the Brew for pursuing the story. Your reporting was far better than any other media. You out reported and really got the community.

    • baltimorebrew

      Thanks Jeri. These are themes we see all over the city and I hope people can use The Brew as a place to talk about them.

  • Unellu

    This is a generic letter from the mayor to the people of Baltimore.  It does not indicate capitulation and it does not indicate defiance.  It is masterful political speak.   She says she heard the crowd, she gives them a nod, she is not opposed to greenery but she wants to accommodate everyone, young, old and those in the middle.  She wants to increase traffic safety and facilitate recreational opportunities.  The senior center has not been relegated to the back burner and the reference to traffic safety tells me the idea for the increased parking spaces is not dead either.  Machiavelli would have appreciated this letter.  It promises nothing, it apologizes for nothing, it takes back nothing and it gives nothing except a master plan working group.  A masterful Machiavellian mayoral gesture–that letter.

    • David Kennedy

      Unellu:  Totally well-said. It’s possible I may not always agree with your position; but I always appreciate your cogent thoughts.
      And I had missed the “traffic safety” reference, as well as “building upon the existing” note.

  • Jeff Evans

    Did I miss something from the meeting, or is the “total reduction in paved area” achieved exclusively by narrowing the 25-foot path around the perimeter   If so, that’s insane.  It’s already narrow enough that large clusters of pedestrians with a biker passing can fill the entire width.

    Also, if the concern is security after a nighttime event lets out, wouldn’t having a single parking lot where all the most vulnerable park users are now concentrated in one place actually be a very bad thing?  Criminals could then easily prey on that single location.  Seems like it would be better to just have a single cop come by the building (or whatever) about the time the events are wrapping up.  There is usually already a patrol in the park at any given time, but if it’s a scheduled event, there’s no reason coordination with the police couldn’t be achieved.  Well, no technical reason anyway (excepting an unanticipated emergency that demands that officer’s presence somewhere else, of course).

    • kyle

       I agree with Jeff. Decreasing the width of the path around the park will be a mistake. The width allows for more people to enjoy walking, running, dog-walking, biking etc…..without crashing into each other. Before anyone endorses this plan, spend some time in the park during peak hours.

  • Kim Trueheart

    Do not fall for that letter … It was probably written by mayoral spokesman “spin-king” Ryan O’Doherty who appears to be allergic to NO Spin communications!!!

  • Bmorepanic

    It is much easier to control a small committee of 10 members than 5000 screaming residents.  It gives the appearance of community involvement while practically guaranteeing complete passage of the Mayor’s agenda.  Rec’n'Parks has a lot of experience in subverting the communities will by misleading a small group.

    It’s not the type of process that led to great success in Patterson Park, but rather a tedious, drawn out psycho-drama MEANT TO get representatives to drop out and get the community at large to forget about it.  

    SRB knows that the immediacy of the issue will be lost, people will focus on other life issues assuming that the committee representatives will speak for them.   Rec’n'Parks is known  for pulling fast ones like asking for immediate decisions – insuring that there is no actual discussion that can take place with community associations or community members.  Or subjecting representatives to a lot of double talk about “preserving options” and my, aren’t those representatives later  surprised that a vote about “options” was re-worded as being in favor of putting in 98 parking spaces.  

    All of the safety in numbers is stripped away from each single representative leaving a group of fairly nice people being taken advantage of by people who are expert at exploiting that niceness for their own ends.  And yes – the process is now that cynical. Witness how rec’n'parks and the health departments are conflating the issues of parking for the senior center with parking for the rec center.

  • SRS

    Sadly, I am not in the slightest bit convinced that this move on the Mayor’s part means she’s baking away from the parking plan. I agree with Bmorepanic. 

  • Not convinced…

    This is not an “olive branch.” This is a cynical attempt to change the Master Plan to suit the mayor’s agenda, which I suspect has to do with getting more revenue out of attracting large events to the newly remodeled rec center.  Gotta have parking for that! The health department has no business being listed before the community in a working group for the Master Plan for the whole park. (Is the health department going to have an opinion on the fence of the Pulaski Monument?)  Unless of course, the idea is just to change the Master Plan in one particularly area to suit the mayor.

    Though 14 years old, the Master Plan is actually pretty well suited to what today’s community wants. Read it:

    • GXWalsh

      According to the 1998 Master Plan “Over half of the community park users feel that automobile parking should be reduced or eliminated in the park.” It is pretty specific of where it thinks parking should go: the shed area for city employees, by the casino, and by the rec center. What is there now is pretty close to what the plan calls for. 

      After sleeping on it, I still think this action is good news (well, not bad news). She felt the pressure of the community. It will be important that this working group is transparent in who is on it, what their affiliations are, any conflicts of interest, and how they were appointed to it. I would also suggest the city do all of this appointing and announcing before Saturday’s meeting or at least lay out the plan for how they will form the working group before Saturday so the next meeting can be even more productive.

  • Park Lover

    Bill Vondrasek just said on WYPR that according to the master plan the city can control traffic in the park – just like in Cylburn Arboretum.  Patterson Park is not Cylburn! It is the only park in the city surrounded by this type of population density.  90% of the people at the community meeting WALKED there.  What part of Don’t Pave the Park do they still not get?  

  • Gerald Neily

    You guys are brilliant! Seriously, this conversation again demonstrates the brilliance of the Brew’s dedicated readership. Recently, I said Rec’n'parks was not up to the sophistication of the cadre that has foisted the big money transportation projects on us by co-opting the processes. Brew readers have taught me otherwise.  

  • J Kardas

    Somebody mentioned to me today that they think the reason the city wants parking in the park is so they can rent the new rec center out for events. And to do this they need to have parking spaces. It just seems that there is more to this than meets the eye. (I see someone mentioned this below already).

    It was also mentioned to me by an architect that they will have to address runoff from the parking…not sure how that is done or what impact it will have.

    And what was with Bill telling us about all the wonderful improvements they’ve made to the park. As if our tax dollars didn’t pay for it. Off topic, has anyone heard how they want to divert traffic down O’Donnell Street from Boston when the Red Line goes in. I believe it is being called Bo’Donnell interchange…It’s all tragic.

    • Anne Fresia

       Actually, your tax dollars didn’t pay for a lot of it because many of the improvements were done with grant money and donations. He failed to report on the role that the neighbors around the park have played in the revitalization of the park.

  • DR

    I may be way off base, but  I am concerned  the “Hooper Center” could eventually  be revamped for a gambling venue if ?7 passes,ewwwww. If the parking is there they will come. Put my mind at ease… am I dead wrong???

    Kudos to Mr. Kraft, his staff and our community for halting, (however temporary,)  the razing of OUR park.     

    • GXWalsh

       In Italian, “casino” means mess or event…like a catchall place (among other definitions). That’s probably why it called that and not for gambling. To really put your mind at ease, you can look up the historical trust that the city agreed to in exchange for a 200k grant a few years back. It was written into state legislation and it says the Casino building can only be used for Senior Day Care and nothing else without a change in legislation. So, it wouldn’t be easy.

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