A site design of what could be included in Hillside Park. Design provided by Roland Park Community Foundation.

Nearly one year after the Roland Park Community Foundation was selected to buy land from the Baltimore Country Club to create a new civic amenity called Hillside Park, its members are focusing on what they need to do to make it a reality.

Members of the foundation this month released a seven-minute video that shows their sweeping vision for the park and spells out the next steps they plan to take, from raising money to hiring a design team to holding community meetings to determine exactly what features the park will include.

They say in the video that the foundation is aiming to complete its acquisition of the country club property by mid-2023 but still must raise funds to get to closing.

“We are so close to making Hillside Park a reality,” said foundation chair Mary Page Michel, one of three speakers in the video. But “we still need to raise $3 million, $1 million more to purchase the property and pay the closing costs, and $2 million for an endowment fund to maintain the park. We need everyone’s help to make that happen.”

Last December, the Baltimore Country Club disclosed that it selected the Roland Park Community Foundation to buy the 20-acre parcel for which it sought proposals starting in 2020. The sale price was $9 million. The sale does not include the BCC’s clubhouse at 4712 Club Road and about 12 acres that it is retaining, but it does include most of the sloping hillside property between the clubhouse and Falls Road to the west.

YouTube video

In addition to Michel, the video features remarks by Rita Walters, a Roland Park Civic League board member, and developer and former Roland Park Community Foundation chair David Tufaro, who pledged $500,000 to help acquire the property. The video also includes plans, photographs and other visuals that show how the land can be transformed.

From the start, the foundation’s goal has been to create a park that is privately-owned but open to the public. Its mantra has been: “Put a park in Roland Park.”

According to Michel, the foundation has already raised $8.5 million to buy the land. She said the money has come from 596 donors representing 34 neighborhoods in Baltimore City; 26 communities in Maryland; and 19 states.

Tufaro said in the video that two more steps must be completed before the land can change hands.

First, he said, the country club is working with the city of Baltimore and the foundation to establish the exact boundary lines of the park and to subdivide the property so new deeds can be recorded. Second, he said, the club is working with state officials on an environmental remediation plan for the property.

In early 2023, Tufaro said, the foundation plans to issue a Request for Proposals to select a landscape architect to design the park. Once the landscape architect is selected, he said, the foundation will hold series of “brainstorming sessions with the community on what you want the park to ultimately become.”

The foundation also plans to engage students from area middle schools and high schools to take part in a “full natural habitat study of the property, to document all of the animals and plants that are on the site,” Tufaro said. Then it will work “to begin removing dead trees, clearing overgrown brush and clearing out the streams,” followed by the buildout of the park, he said.

Michel said a “draft plan” for the park was designed in 2012, based on the Greater Roland Park Master Plan, and will be updated by the selected landscape architect to reflect the ideas from the community. She said the park will be created following the principles of Frederick Law Olmsted, the 19th century landscape architect who helped design Central Park in New York City and other public spaces.

“Olmsted believed that the most beautiful places should be shared,” Michel said in the video. “Different sections of Central Park are like different rooms, and Hillside Park will be the same.”

“There will be a sense of discovery in the Olmsted tradition, where all of a sudden you’re walking along and, Wait, there’s a clearing! Wait, there’s a stream! Wait, there’s another clearing!” Walters said.

A highlight of the video is the way it shows how different parts of the property can be put to different uses, from playing fields to nature trails to wildlife habitats.

According to the preliminary plan, the different areas can include: a “great lawn,” a possible children’s playground where the first hole of the golf course used to be; groves of trees; and “meadowlands” and “dell” areas for quiet contemplation in nature, with footbridges over streams to provide access.

The video gives a phone number for people to call if they want to make a contribution: 410-464-2533.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to Hillside Park, but we still need to raise $3 million more,” Michel said. “We need everyone’s help to make that happen. We welcome all gifts, great and small.”

“After over 25 years of dreaming of a community Hillside Park, we are almost there,” Tufaro said. “It’s an exciting time to be involved with this process.”

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Ed Gunts

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