A group of Roland Park residents is hoping to buy a portion of Baltimore Country Club and create a park that is open to all.

A group of Roland Park neighbors is raising millions to buy and preserve land being sold by the Baltimore Country Club, hoping that their offer staves off developer interest in the valuable North Baltimore property.

The effort to turn 20 acres of historic country-club land into a community park is being led by the Roland Park Community Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1986 that supports green space in the area.

The goal, said Anne Stuzin, communications manager for the foundation, is “in essence creating a new park for Baltimore City that is open and welcoming and inclusive.”

The 20-acre parcel is bounded by Falls Road, with the athletic fields of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School just across the street. It represents one of the last pieces of the original home of the Baltimore Country Club, which opened as 1898 and was the first 18-hole course in Maryland.

The club later purchased land near Lutherville, built two courses there, and closed the original course after selling all land on the west side of Falls Road for schools.

A Roland Park golf course was one of the amenities offered by the Olmsted Brothers, the legendary landscape architects and suburb-builders, to attract buyers away from more urban areas. Even with the sale, the country club is still keeping its clubhouse and 12 acres.

The community foundation says its mission is aligned with the Olmsted vision and that transforming the space into a public park would provide more community recreation space, as the Olmsteds intended.

Plans call for keeping much of the property in a natural setting, Stuzin said, adding “we’re not going to create a manicured space.” The foundation says that while privately owned and maintained, the park would be open to all city residents, a model heavily used for open space in New York City and other places.

Included would be walking paths and benches along large swaths of open space. But it would also feature a playground, fields and courts for sports and an amphitheater, should the group get the property.

Students from Morgan State University’s landscape architecture program have been tapped to help develop the park plans.

But first, the foundation would need to be approved as the purchaser. The foundation is likely competing with other offers from real estate developers with heftier financing.

“Activity remains brisk and interest in the property is high,” said John Maroon, spokesman for Baltimore Country Club. “We are happy that the Roland Park community has been engaged and plans to submit a bid.”

Maroon did not disclose other potential bidders.

Zoning on the land permits single family homes on third-acre lots, and also parks and country clubs. Other conditional uses include schools and churches, according to Chris McSherry, a real estate attorney and foundation board member helping with the bid.

McSherry said she hopes the club leadership sees that a sale to the foundation would require no rezoning, city plan approvals, installment payments or other complications that typically delay real estate deals.

“It’s a much simpler transition,” she said. “A residential developer would have to be able to make money. They’d have to build really expensive houses to make money on that.”

But Maroon said the club has “an obligation to our membership to secure the best deal possible, and that takes some time and consideration.” There is no timetable, he said, for making a decision.

While the asking price for the land is not public, the foundation has estimated that a purchase price would be between $4 million and $6 million. It is hoping to build an endowment of up to $2 million for maintenance.

McSherry said the group is nearing 80 percent of its fundraising goal.

“We’ve seen a tremendous excitement and with that has been people making donations and pledges and we are feeling we’re comfortable to meet our goal and make an attractive offer to BCC,” said Bob Connors, president of the Roland Park Civic League.

Conners has helped with community outreach and fundraising efforts. He said that preservation of green space is “always an easy sell.”

“People don’t want to see more things being paved over,” he said.

Some community members are raising funds in the name of Daniel E. McIntyre III, a Deutsche Bank executive, Roland Park resident and avid cyclist who in 2007 was paralyzed from the chest down after being struck by a motorist in London, where he had been assigned. McIntyre died last year from a brain tumor.

The foundation is hoping that including letters of support from community groups, educational institutions and green groups will boost its standing when the country club reviews the bids.

The principals at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School, and Roland Park Elementary/Middle School have sent in letters supporting the effort.

The Morgan State program also submitted a letter.

Stuzin and others from the foundation have led a series of virtual meetings on the effort, and have reached out to 15 neighborhood groups within a one-mile radius from the land.

“The Roland Park Community Foundation is leading the charge, but when it comes to generating awareness and excitement beyond the borders of Roland Park, this park has gotten traction in other communities,” she said.

“And for me, that’s what’s most intriguing and hopeful about this (developing the park),” she said. “Olmsted said of parks, they’re the most democratic of spaces, bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and give them a space to interact.”

5 replies on “Turn a country club into a city park? Yes, say Roland Park residents. And they’re willing to pay.”

  1. Awesome. We need to encourage all city residents to do the same kind of thing with their neighborhoods. This is a great model that should be repeated.

  2. Please advise address for donations. As a former resident of Homeland and now of Bolton Hill, I love parks and walking spaces. That is a beautiful space for all of us.
    Wendy Noyes

  3. Nobody wants more homes here. They are already putting 300-500 new units in Cross Keys.. the roads cannot handle it.

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