Preliminary Work Begins for Athletic Facility Renovations at Riverside Park

| February 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks has started preliminary work for a renovation and expansion of the athletic facilities at Riverside Park. This project was made possible by Recreation & Parks purchasing a triangular-shaped piece of land located beyond the outfield fences of Hap Hall Memorial Field from CSX for $300,000 in May 2018.

A Riverside Park Master Plan was created by Recreation & Parks in 2010 that outlined improvements for the 17-acre park in the Riverside Neighborhood of South Baltimore. Phase One of this plan was implemented in 2012 before the Star-Spangled Sailabration. The historical portions of the park were renovated with new pathways, lights, trash cans, and benches. The site is associated with the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 and was known as Fort Lookout.

Phase Two, which will improve the athletic facilities at Riverside Park, was slated to begin in 2014, but is now finally getting started. Environmental assessment is currently underway with testing take place on site. The stormwater management plan is being worked on and construction documents are being completed. Full construction is expected to begin this fall and is expected to take nine to 12 months.

Recreation & Parks has $900,000 to renovate the red field house and $1.9 million to renovate the fields and courts.

The 868 sq. ft., one-story red field house was once a recreation center that used to host dances for youth in the community. The building has been used in recent years for storage. Its bathrooms in the rear of the building are not functional.

The field house has a new roof, but the rest of the building will be gutted and reconfigured with new HVAC, plumbing, and electric. Two unisex bathrooms will be moved to the front of the building facing the path, and a 428 sq. ft. concessions room will be added with a window facing the front of the building. The field house will have a mechanical room, two storage rooms in the concession area, and two storage rooms accessible from the exterior of the building.

The patio in front of the field house will be improved and will include a seating area overlooking the fields. There will be table seating, a seating wall along the sides of the building, bike racks, and a shade structure.

Jackson Fisher who coordinates activities for the Friends of Riverside Park, a subcommittee of Riverside Neighborhood Association, said the concession room will not have a full kitchen and it will be used for mostly for fundraisers.

Recreation & Parks will use the new land acquired from CSX to expand Hap Hall Memorial Field, which is used for baseball and softball, and to create a wider playing field for soccer and football towards the eastern end of the field.

The fields will be surrounded in new fencing and there will continue to be a right field fence for Hap Hall Memorial Field, but not a left field fence. Concrete bleachers will be built into the hill facing the fields, a new stairway will be added, a dog water fountain will be installed, and a ramp will be constructed for ADA access.

A new full-size basketball court will also be built. This will replace the current non full-size basketball court and an adjacent second court that has been without baskets for many years. Just south of the basketball court will be a bio retention area. Another bio retention area will be built in the southeast corner of the park below a Baltimore City garage.

A new path system will be constructed so visitors can walk around the athletic facilities. This will connect with an existing system of paths throughout the park.

A parking lot, which would hold about 20 spots, is planned for the southwest corner of the park in the land acquired by CSX. This would be an expansion of 2 East Wells’ visitor parking lot.

Fisher said that due to regulations placed on dog parks, they were unable to find a location in the park for one. Dog parks have to be a certain distance from residences, which is a challenge as the park is surrounded on three sides by homes. Dog parks must also be placed on a flat surface to avoid contaminated run-off.

Phase Three of the Riverside Park renovations will include improvements to the pool facilities. This will likely include a renovated pool building with colonnades and pavilions for gathering. It could also include a new splash pool attached to the existing baby pool and a new fountain at the park entrance to the pool. Fisher said there is no indication that Phase Three would take place anytime soon and that the focus is on getting Phase Two completed.

Some cosmetic improvements were made to Riverside Park Pool last year thanks to a $49,500 grant from the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP) and a volunteer effort from Riverside Neighborhood Association and residents in the South Baltimore community.

In 2018, sidewalk bump-outs were completed around Riverside Park. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation designed the project for traffic calming and pedestrian safety. The bump-outs were installed along Johnson St. at Barney St., Heath St., and Randall St., and along Randall St. at Riverside Ave., Covington Ave., Jackson St., and Webster St.

Two exercise equipment areas were added to Riverside Park last year.

Approximate dimensions of the land expansion outlined in white (screenshot courtesy of Google Maps)

Renderings courtesy of Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks (click to enlarge)

Photos of Riverside Park from 2018


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