The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition seeks to build a 35-mile urban trail network connecting existing trails to disconnected neighborhoods throughout Baltimore to each other, to parks, to anchor institutions, and to the downtown core. A pilot project will focus on building community awareness and political support on a key trail gap in West Baltimore. The Coalition brings together a wide array of partners—from transportation professionals, public agencies, anchor institutions, the public health sector and community development organizations to open space advocates—to address health inequity and safety in transportation infrastructure.
The Greenway Trail Network project is intended to serve all of the city of Baltimore. However, the coalition chose to target specific communities in West Baltimore due to their specific barriers:
The neighborhoods in West Baltimore were developed during the time that streetcars were popular and connected communities through transportation in walkable areas. Streetcars became irrelevant through the advent of the automobile. West Baltimore is where the urban grid of the city meets the suburban sprawl and the roads and spaces designed to connect green spaces have been roadways and major traffic arteries. This acts as a barrier to pedestrian and cycling transportation in an area with limited public transportation options. In this community, more than 30 percent of the resident do not have access to a car. The communities also suffer from other impacts such as:
This combination of socioeconomic factors are complicated by the outdated built environment. This inhibits physical activity, regional connectivity and mobility f0r residents. By soliciting community input and minor public investment, the Gwynns Falls Parkway corridor can serve as a healthy, active transportation thoroughfare, connect residents to anchor institutions, parks and Mondawmin Mall, a major shopping and regional transit hub.
Current health, economic, and built environment disparities exist in Baltimore. High physical inactivity rates (30% of residents report no physical activity; population of approximately 190,000) are 8 percent higher than the average for the state of Maryland and the United States.
Residents also have high rates of chronic disease associated with a lack of physical activity:
The targeted neighborhoods also have high rates of crime and violence, poor access to trails and parks, greater traffic-related risks due to busy streets and rail lines, and insufficient pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.
The coalition built the capacity of the coalition to advance the development and completion of the 35-mile Baltimore trail networks with emphasis on recruiting organizations from the West Baltimore area. Over the project period, the coalition grew from 7 organizations to 32 diverse and unique organizations including 4 organizations from the targeted West Baltimore area.
The coalition has promoted structural change within the planning and health community in Baltimore by elevating the concept of trails as a concept that disparate organizations and diverse sectors can convene around to work towards a common goal and share resources. This has happened by creating new forms of communication and partnership between the City Agencies such as the Departments of Planning, Health, Rec & Parks, and Transportation. As a result of the coalition’s work these agencies are now able to work together to advocate change in Baltimore. The Health Department and the Parks and Recreation department are in communication now sharing relevant programming and event schedules, and planning initiatives in order to help each other meet their goals of increasing opportunities for people to have healthy accessible options for physical activity. This type of coalition outcome will lead to increased collaboration in the future.
Success Story: April 2017 Success Story: October 2016 Fact sheet: April 2016
Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks
Citizens Planning and Housing Association
Parks & People Foundation
Baltimore City Department of Planning
Baltimore City Health Department
Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association
New Public Spaces
BMore Streets for People
Pictures courtesy of Graham Projects LLC and Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition