Monday, February 14, 2005

Holding Down the Fort

The more we learn about the 100-acre Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, the more obvious it becomes that Baltimore City has neither the funds, nor the wherewithal to properly manage the Park, and that it is in a truly sorry state.

The Park has sites that have such high levels of lead contamination (from paint), that in 1998 environmental analysts wrote, "There is a lot of work to be done at Fort Smallwood Park if children are expected to spend time here." For over 7 years, no steps have been taken to remediate the lead from the site. Nevertheless, the City claims that because they have fenced some of the contaminated buildings at the Park, "[it] is safe for public use."

A routine visit by the Sun reporter found that several of the fences were knocked down, or breached, and that there were no fences around the playground equipment, which sits on the lead contaminated soil. Broken glass covered one of playgrounds, and much of the equipment was rusted and/or had cracked paint.

Fort Smallwood Park, for better or worse, will stay in the City's hands, whether the County buys it next week or in 10 years. Other prime properties, such as the former Crownsville Hospital site, are unlikely to stick around in public hands so long. Ideally, of course, both sites would be purchased and remediated by entities that could afford to do so, and maintained for public recreation or open space. However, given budget realities, if action can only be taken on one this year, Crownsville would seem like a much wiser investment of County funds.



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