DPW project SC977 (Gwynns Falls Sewershed Improvements – Area C) officially began on Monday, April 27. You may have heard trees being felled in the forest.
Within weeks of finding out about the project the Friends sent a letter to Directors Matthew Garbark (DPW) and Reginald Moore (Rec & Parks) asking for more information on the project and also expressing our concerns about what little we did know. Those concerns were:
- Would there be new, permanent roads created in Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park?
- Would the temporary access roads be constructed in ways that would prevent destruction of fragile forest soils?
- Would outdated tree surveys taken years ago be updated to insure newly mature trees would be counted if they were removed and would they be replaced following construction?
- Could we have access to the plans?
- Could we meet with DPW and contractor personnel during the construction phase to inspect the site and at periodic progress meetings?
- Could we be assured that any trails damaged by the construction be repaired?
- Could we be assured that trees removed as a result of construction be replaced within the park?
- How long would the project take?
The Friends created a Task Force composed of local stakeholders. Members include David Hollander, former President of the Friends and currently Chair of the Windsor Hills Conservation Trail; Jack Lattimore, Friends Board Member and Chair of the Task Force; Matt Rescott, member of the Baltimore Forestry Board; and Chris Wharton, former President of the Dickeyville Community Association and newly elected Friends Board Member. Matt Rescott and Chris Wharton are environmental restoration professionals and have extensive field experience in similar projects.
The Task Force has had 2 telephone conferences with DPW and Rec & Parks personnel. Councilman Kristerfer Burnett arranged the 2nd phone meeting and attended it. We had an opportunity to express our concerns on each call. We were grateful that both DPW and Rec & Parks personnel on the calls took our concerns seriously, answered them as best they could over the phone, and promised to get back to us to provide more details on the project and insure that we were aware of what was going on.
On Friday, May 1, Task Force members Jack Lattimore and Chris Wharton met with DPW Project Manager James Hurley and 2 DPW Inspectors at DPW’s Field Office in Dickeyville. We had a candid and productive meeting. We were given copies of the plans. The Task Force was invited to attend field inspections and also progress meetings. The Task Force made clear that we wanted strict adherence to the plans and that all work would stay within the Limits of Disturbance noted on the plans and that any “field decisions” would be cleared with Rec & Parks beforehand. We found out that there would be no permanent access roads as part of this project and temporary access roads would be constructed using the highest type of protection necessary to protect forest soils.
We have also learned a lot about construction “mitigation,” repair work to the stream, floodplain, forest, and trails following construction but before the project is officially declared completed.
There is no doubt that this project will cause stress to the forest of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. Approximately 85 mature trees have been identified for removal. That number could climb as new surveys are taken. However, the goals are necessary: less sewer overflows into the streams in the park leading to improved public and environmental health. With citizen oversight and adequate mitigation following construction the Friends are confident that forest stresses will be as limited as possible and that the streams and forest of the park will recover over time.
Advanced warnings of projects impacting the park are necessary. The Friends and other stakeholders deserve the opportunity for community input. Finding out about this project late in the game caused frayed nerves in our community that necessitated quick and decisive action.
After some difficult weeks of discovering what was going on and demanding answers, the Friends believe that we are creating a new model for projects that impact the park. We have built new relationships with DPW and Rec & Parks and we have unprecedented access to what is going on. This has the potential to build trust among all parties and that portends a better outcome for all.
That is not to say that this project will be pretty or that we may be shocked about what is happening in the short term. However, with your continued support the Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is working to ensure that the damage is limited. The project should take 6-8 months.
If you have a comment that you think the Friends’ Sewer Rehabilitation Task Force can help with, please leave a comment or concern in our mailbox. We will respond as soon as we can.
Thank you for your continued support!