$437,500 grant will improve a blighted park in Baltimore’s Johnson Square community

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Part of the area slated for revitalization.
Part of the area slated for revitalization.

A city-owned park in Baltimore’s Johnson Square community will be revitalized with the help of a $437,500 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association, one of only four given nationwide.

The park association announced that it has selected the Parks & People Foundation, in partnership with the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, to receive the grant from the Great Urban Parks Campaign, a national program that supports the redevelopment of aging infrastructure in urban parks. The program is an initiative of the NRPA and the American Planning Association.

The grant will be used to improve Ambrose Kennedy Park, a blighted. 1.75-acre park in the Johnson Square neighborhood of East Baltimore.

Part of the area slated for revitalization.

Johnson Square is east of the Fallsway and west of the Oliver neighborhood. It is bounded by Greenmount Cemetery on the north and Eager Street on the south. Once complete, the project will meet two goals: to provide a new green space for the community, and improve the environmental health of the park by removing asphalt to better filter storm water and adding shady trees to cool the area.

Boundaries of Ambrose Kennedy Park Improvements

“Investing in parks is one of the fastest ways to change the dynamic in a stressed community, immediately improving residents’ quality of life, while spurring further investment long-term,” said Lisa Schroeder, President and CEO of Parks & People, a non-profit organization that works to improve public spaces throughout the city.

“We are thrilled to be part of this project, which, with its innovative design, has the potential to transform the lives of children living in Latrobe Homes and attending Johnston Square Elementary School and to bring many more resources to the community.”

The project is “a model for effective and efficient public-private partnerships,” In addition, Schroeder added,“We are working hand-in-hand with city agencies and communities to ensure that the park meets everyone’s needs, and is sustainable long-term.”

“Providing and maintaining quality green space in the city is a vital part of Recreation and Parks’ mission,” said Bill Vondrasek, interim director of the Department of Recreation and Parks. “The park design, completed with community input, addresses current and future needs and will have a lasting impact on the surrounding communities.”

Parks & People and Recreation and Parks representatives say they look forward to sharing the design with community residents and stakeholders and getting their feedback in a series of public meetings.

The Great Urban Parks Campaign aims to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through “green infrastructure” projects. Also, participants say, the campaign will result in the development of training resources for park, planning, and green infrastructure professionals.

“We are honored to support this exciting project, as it will help us showcase the environmental, social and economic benefits of green infrastructure in urban parks nationwide,” said Barbara Tulipane, NRPA President and CEO. “Undoubtedly, the project will make a positive difference in the community — providing additional green space for residents to connect with one another and nature.”

“Parks play an important role in creating communities of lasting value,” said Carol Rhea, FAICP, APA President. “Incorporating green infrastructure into new or existing parks will enhance each community, making them more sustainable, equitable, and resilient for current and future generations.”

Funding for the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant was provided by The JPB Foundation. More information about the Great Urban Parks Campaign is available at www.nrpa.org/greeninfrastructure.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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