Large Crowd Meets to Discuss Rash Field Redevelopment

| January 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Approximately 200 people gathered in the IMAX theatre at the Maryland Science Center last Wednesday to discuss the redevelopment of Rash Field. The Waterfront Partnership has selected Baltimore-based landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. to lead the project. There will be a $4 million budget for phase 1, which is likely to begin near the end of this year. A larger budget for improvements is expected in Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019. Mahan Rykiel designed Pierce’s Park at Pier 5; East Baltimore’s Eager Park, which is now under construction; and, a master plan for Patterson Park. The firm is also currently working with the Downtown Partnership on a redevelopment of McKeldin Square adjacent to the Inner Harbor.

Richard Jones of Mahan Rykiel told the crowd they currently do not have a plan for Rash Field because they want to hear from the community first. Issace Hametz of Mahan Rykiel stated they have “no preconceived notions of what the park should be.”

Last Wednesday was the first public meeting. A second meeting is scheduled at the Maryland Science Center on January 25th and a third on March 29th. As a design takes shape, the future seven-acre Rash Field must have the following principles:

· Beach volleyball
· Outdoor exercise equipment and uses (e.g. jogging track)
· Active health and wellness, fitness space for organized or informal activities
· Remove berm separating field from the Promenade and add shade swings
· Upgrade South Shore promenade
· Provide flexible programming space for activities including bocce, ping pong, etc.
· Provide flexible outdoor events space
· Recommend treatment for safe use of remaining areas (e.g. wood bleachers)
· Potential Concession – seasonal, locally owned and operated outdoor café
· Relocate Pride Memorial, Carousel, and Kawasaki Garden (alternate locations are currently being identified)
· Add shade
· Storage for Rash Field programming and event activities
· Upgrade bathrooms
· Other uses brought forward by design team, stakeholder meetings, or the Advisory Committee

The group in attendance was filled with neighbors from nearby communities, Digital Harbor staff and students, and a large contingent of participants from Baltimore Beach Volleyball and the November Project, two popular groups that utilize Rash Field. Those in attendance were asked to complete an online survey upon entering and were later split into 11 groups to discuss the future of Rash Field and share key points of their discussion with the audience.

Nearly everyone in attendance, as revealed through the survey results, agreed the space should remain an active recreation park. The love for beach volleyball was apparent in the group presentations from both those who play and those who do not, but a popular sentiment was the space should be more flexible so multiple activities or events can take place at once without disruption. Nearly every group stated a desire for the return of a winter ice rink at Rash Field, which has been in place in recent years at McKeldin Square and Harborplace. Most groups also noted Rash Field felt like a community space and not a “tourist attraction like the rest of the Inner Harbor.” One group led their presentation with “don’t change it, enhance it,” which led to a positive reaction by the audience.

Ideas presented for Rash Field in the presentations included a farmers’ market, vendors, outdoor cafes or food boats, a better running track and fitness equipment, more shade, improved bathrooms, a dog park, better lighting, gardens, artwork and scuplture gardens, permeable surfaces, bike parking, better signage, a skate park, kayaking and sport rental facilities, climbing walls, fountains, spaces for dancing, education spaces, and more connectivity to Federal Hill. There were varying opinions about whether the feeling of separation from the rest of the Inner Harbor was a good or bad thing.

Mahan Rykiel and Waterfront Partnership urges everyone to fill out a survey at RashField.org. The public process will continue and a Rash Field design is expected to be presented to the Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) in late March.

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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