Steps Toward Making Druid Hill Park a Better City Park
Many dedicated individuals, volunteers, and staff work to make Druid Hill Park a better place. The Friends of Druid Hill Park have successfully have helped bring music, a farmers market, art projects, and other events to the park and made it a more active destination. These actions have gone a long way toward improving Druid Hill, but fixing the park’s urban design flaws would make their job much easier.
The Druid Hill Park Master Plan from 1995 identifies the problem with the roadways on the perimeter.
“The Jones Falls Expressway and Druid Park Lake Drive claimed parts of Druid Hill, on the south and east edges, for enlarged, high-speed commuter corridors. The construction of these two arteries caused the loss of the Mount Royal entrance and the park frontage drive. The enlarged Druid Park Lake Drive separated the surrounding neighborhoods from the park, compromised the function of the park roadways and walkways on the south and west edges of the park, and altered the quiet ambiance of the lake edge. The most offensive symbol of these projects is found on Madison Avenue, where the grand entry arches stand in isolation from the park.”
The Jones Falls Expressway is not going to be changed anytime any time soon. However, Druid Hill Lake Drive and the arterials on the west and north, can be retrofitted if the city’s planners wanted to remake Druid Hill into a more neighborhood-friendly park.
In considering change, city officials should ask themselves, is the road configuration around the park working for neighbors and neighborhoods next to the park? Could the road design be contributing to the economic malaise at edge of the park? If the answer is that the park edge is not working, here are changes that would help.
• Eliminate the existing wide grassy median arterial road system that divides the park from its neighbors and leaves the park edge fragmented into pieces
• Introduce an urban street grid on the parks border with regular, frequent, and pedestrian friendly intersections. (Central Park, Patterson Park)
• If roads do bisect the park, their footprint should shrink to reduce dividing the parkscape into fragments.
• Put roads on the park edge on a diet and reduce their width. (Patterson Park)
• Convert traffic lanes on road edges to on-street parking. (Central Park, Patterson Park)
• Add amenities like community gardens, running/biking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, dog park, and activity nodes within eyesight of the people who live next to the park. (Patterson Park)
• Add food carts or open air places to eat and drink near pedestrian crossings between park and neighborhoods. (Central Park)
• Move the zoo entrance close to the Mondawmin Metro Station and the neighborhood.
Jeff La Noue is the chief writer for the urbanist blog Comeback City. Jeff has an undergraduate degree in Economics from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Maryland-College Park. Jeff’s urban insights come from research, reviewing best practices, and on-the-ground observation. Jeff lives in Baltimore’s Jones Falls Valley. La Noue ...