Years after it was first proposed, the reconstruction of Baltimore’s Rash Field waterfront park has finally begun.
Twenty students from Mrs. Waller’s third-grade class at Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School today helped Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and other city leaders break ground for the project’s $16.8 million first phase.
As planned by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and others, including the design firm of Mahan Rykiel Associates, the project entails the transformation of 7.5 acres of waterfront parkland on the south shore of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, along Key Highway between the Maryland Science Center and the Rusty Scupper restaurant.
The goal is to create a “world-class” park to replace the underutilized recreational area there today and serve as a vibrant gathering place for area residents as well as tourists.
“A priority for Rash Field Park is and always has been to serve families city-wide by providing ample amenities and opportunities for youth and adults alike,” said Waterfront Partnership president Laurie Schwartz. “With help from generous donors, partners, city and state officials, and the community, Baltimore will have a state-of-the-art park to gather, learn, play and live.”
The project has been broken into two phases, starting with a 2.5-acre section closest to the science center. Work on the first phase is expected to be completed in the summer of 2021. Sometime after that, work will begin on the five-acre second phase, closer to the Rusty Scupper. Waterfront Partnership is leading the construction effort, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company is the construction manager and general contractor.
Elements of the first phase include a nature park, a” kinetic playground,” a dedicated skatepark, a shade lawn and a pavilion featuring a waterfront cafe and a “green roof overlook.”
A construction timetable and budget have not been disclosed for the second phase. Volleyball courts on land where the second phase will be completed will remain open for use until work on that part of the project is ready to begin, planners say.
Schwartz and others noted that Mahan Rykiel developed the design after a series of meetings with community stakeholders and others who currently use the area, which is part of Baltimore’s parks system.
The City of Baltimore will contribute more than $9.5 million toward the design and construction costs of phase one. The Waterfront Partnership has raised another $4.3 million from the state of Maryland and nearly $1 million from private sources, and it continues to raise funds for the project.
At least $15,000 of the private donations has come from skatepark fundraisers, including a world premiere of Baltimore resident and professional skateboarder Joey Jett’s skateboarding video entitled “The Dream: The Art of Skateboarding.” The skateboarder, whose birth name is Joey Hornish, is the son of Isabel Cummings, Baltimore’s inspector general.
The skatepark will be named Jake’s Skatepark at Rash Field in honor of south Baltimore resident Jake Owen, a five-year-old skateboarder and sports enthusiast whose life was cut short in 2011 when a cell phone-distracted driver struck his family’s car from behind while traveling 62 miles per hour. Jake’s last words were, “Mom, I have 43 lives.”
In speeches before the groundbreaking ceremony today, elected officials said they believe it’s important that all Baltimoreans have access to safe and well-designed public parks.
“The City of Baltimore is proud to provide funding to the renovation of Rash Field Park,’ said Young. “The milestone groundbreaking that we witnessed today is just the beginning of what will be a transformative open space for all residents and visitors of Baltimore. Safe and central recreational and educational spaces are vital to the health of our communities.”
The Rash Field redevelopment “demonstrates what is possible when city, state and local partners collaborate and prioritize the needs of our communities,” said Reginald Moore, executive director of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. “We look forward to the new opportunities it will bring to Baltimore residents and visitors.”