BALTIMORE, MD (JUNE 17, 2006) – Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., Lt. Governor Michael S. Steele, and Secretary of the Environment Kendl P. Philbrick joined various local officials and community members to dedicate an environmentally friendly playground in Washington Village today. The project is one of many environmental improvement projects in the specially designated Environmental Benefits District in southwest Baltimore.
“This playground is a small example of how state and local government collaboration is making Maryland a better place to live,” said Governor Ehrlich. “By having designated this area as an Environmental Benefits District, we are concentrating economic development and environmental rehabilitation efforts in this and other targeted communities. This environmentally-friendly playground is just one of the many projects that will improve the lives of the residents of southwest Baltimore.”
The construction of the playground at Carroll and Archer streets is one of many environmental rehabilitation projects undertaken in southwest Baltimore since the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) designated twelve neighborhoods in the Monroe-Fulton corridor as an Environmental Benefits District (EBD) last year. An EBD designation brings together government agencies and community stakeholders to identify a range of issues that need to be addressed in the area while focusing financial, technical, regulatory, administrative and policy resources to solve problems.
“This is a simple example of the successes we can find through cooperation from multiple levels of government and community members,” said Lt. Governor Steele. “As the result of hard work from everyone involved, this forgotten lot was turned into a safe play area for the children and a beautiful piece of real estate for residents.”
Construction of the playground in the heart of the Washington Village/Pigtown community was a cooperative effort that included MDE, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks and the Washington Village/Pigtown Community Association. MDE allocated $75,000 for the playground construction using funds from the Maryland Used Tire Cleanup and Recycling Fund. The fund is generated through the collection of 80 cents per tire at purchase.
The three-phase construction of the playground, started in June 2005 with the demolition and recycling of the rusted and dangerous old playground materials and the removal of several large sections of asphalt. New playground equipment comprised of coated metal and plastic that minimizes potential for injury and a safety surface providing a protective cushion under the play equipment was then installed. The rubberized, safety surface is comprised of tire chips and recycled rubber that is held together with an adhesive matrix. The final phase included the installation of new fencing around the playground, while community volunteers landscaped green areas and painted the concrete wall that is adjacent to Carroll Street.
“Environmental Benefits Districts are examples of proactive government on behalf of communities, and this area is especially dear to us at MDE because this is the community where we come to work everyday,” said Secretary of Environment Kendl P. Philbrick. “Through the EBD program, we are proactive in pursuing the resources and funding to revitalize EBD communities and providing programs to benefit those who need help the most.”
The latest project within the EBD involves the implementation of Best Management Practices for improvements to the principal watershed in the area. Excessive pollutants from Watershed 263 of southwest Baltimore flow into the Chesapeake Bay. These pollutant and nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, lead to degraded water quality, which negatively impact the ecology of the Bay and its tributaries. The planned improvements include the construction of five ultra-urban catch basin inserts, at least one stormwater curb extension, and two to four porous concrete alleys. In addition, efforts to decrease pollutants from impervious surface runoff will include the installation of biofiltration practices and perimeter sand filter.
In addition, a web-based, “virtual ultra-urban theme park” will be created to feature maps, pictures of progress throughout construction, design schematics, water quality data, meteorological data obtained from the monitoring station in the watershed, and other aspects of Watershed 263. The virtual theme park website will provide watershed management strategies that ultimately benefit the Baltimore Harbor and Chesapeake Bay.
Partners in the stormwater improvement projects in Watershed 263 include MDE, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Baltimore City Public Works Department.
Some of the other environmental concerns in the Southwest Baltimore EBD that will be addressed by the government agencies and the stakeholders include:
High incidences of lead poisoning and presence of lead in homes;
Lack of trees and recreational space;
An abundance of trash and debris that ends up in the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River; debris saturated storm drains that lead to rats and vermin infestations;
Numerous vacant industrial sites;
Heavy metals in soils; and
High asthma rates.