Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Jones Falls Trail

Arsenal of Inclusion Nomination: Jones Falls Trail

The Jones Falls Trail is a walking and biking trail that runs from Penn Station, and leads alternately to the Avenue/Hampden or to Druid Hill Park. Climbing the steep hill which leads to Druid Hill Park is always athletically satisfying, and it is even more so when one reaches Druid Lake, and the path which winds around it. There are always a number of people utilizing the space when the weather is right - runners, cyclists, people strolling, kids playing... The Jones Falls Trail is a direct vein from the centrally gentrified area of Penn Station, transporting you under and through Bolton Hill and Charles Village to arrive at the northern edge of Reservoir Hill. Druid Hill Park finds itself at the intersection of a diverse group of neighborhoods, and major roads like Reisterstown Road and Park Heights Avenue scour the borders of this 745-acre park. Click here to view a map of druid hill park on google maps.

The Trail opens the city by providing an alternative to the JFX, simultaneously making that alternative walk-able: there is a generously wide sidewalk that winds up this trail, and a good amount of gardening/landscaping has been done along the edge of the walkway and river. One passes tomato plants, goldenseal, as well as indigenous species of trees and shrubs. There is something to notice beyond the crafted facade: the fate of the Jones Falls River itself! The opposing side of the river is guided by a 20-foot tall cement wall which forms a harsh line along which the river flows. Although extremely polluted, one can observe fish, toads, ducks and other creatures still managing to utilize this ecology, adapting to the massive changes this river has undergone. Click here to read a history of the Jones Falls, on the Jones Falls Watershed Association website.

The uses of this trail are multifaceted. I will explain the major uses of the space heading north on the trail after entering at the intersection of Lanvale and Maryland Avenue.

  1. Baltimore Bicycle Works is located within the first 200 feet of the trail, to your right, before you pass under the Howard Street Bridge. Baltimore's only union bike shop! link
  2. Under the Howard Street bridge is used as shelter by a rotating population of homeless people. It is a generously wide bridge, and provides much needed shelter from the elements... though why there are not enough spaces in public housing for these unfortunate few, still remains to be answered.
  3. The Baltimore Street Car museum allows visitors to experience riding in restored street cars that used to run through the streets of Baltimore. Costs $$.
  4. Along the tracks of BSC museum, there is a larger, abandoned train cab, along with other giant pieces of machinery. It is a beautiful set of ruins, despite being apparently refuse of some sort of historical dumping site, and recently I have been passing a lone drummer who sits there at night.
  5. Baltimore Street Salt Storage - bunkers of salt used to de-ice the street are approximately directly under the 28th street bridge, which passes over the trail.
  6. Callahan Company owns a lot here where their utility vehicles are stored.
  7. Beyond this point, the trail steepens, and half-way up the hill the trail continues on an offset sidewalk, which zig-zags its way up to Druid Hill Park. Hard to miss, but then again, this trail diversion does not explicitly announce what it allows you access to (i.e. The park, pool and lake)
  8. Alternately, continuing along what is now Falls Road, one can turn right up another hill, reaching Hampden and the Avenue.

Because of the amount of uses of this space, and its alternative nature, I nominate the Jones Falls Trail as opening the city. While it is not a busy city street, it connects parts of the city which are usually under, over, or next to each other in a unique way. It is worth considering and visiting, and I hope everyone takes the time to visit Druid Hill Park, with the Baltimore Conservatory, The Maryland Zoo and the Palm House nestled inside of its luscious rolling hills!

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