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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 23, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 31
Homewood's Front Yard Gets Ready For Its Comeback

This illustration by Mahan Rykiel Associates shows the Wyman Park Dell's proposed Charles Street entrance, just south of Art Museum Drive, with a grand stair and ADA accessible ramp. A street-level pavilion and dining terrace would help energize the park edge and draw more people into the space; an office and storage facilities would be below.
Photo by Courtesy of Mahan Rykiel Associates

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Wyman Park Dell now has a guiding light: A master plan to protect the beloved park and guide its enhancements for at least the next 15 years.

The Friends of the Wyman Park Dell, longtime stewards of the 13-acre park located at the southern edge of Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus, wanted a plan to better guide its efforts to clean up the park and make it a safer, more inviting and attractive location.

Over time, portions of the park have been overcome by invasive plants and its interior obscured by trees and shrubs, inhibiting a sense of security among users, according to Marcia Holden, president of the organization.

While volunteer-led efforts to clean up the park have made significant improvements to the landscape, the master plan, Holden said, can help realize long-term goals for the space, designed at the turn of the 20th century by the firm of famed urban architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

"We want to fully reclaim the historic park and have it become recognized as a recreational destination for the whole region," Holden said. "We want people to go there because we'll have some great programming, and it will become an even greater environment for people of all ages."

In 2004, the Wyman Park Dell Master Plan Steering Committee was formed through an initiative of the Friends of Wyman Park Dell. The Friends view "the Dell" as a cornerstone for the entire Wyman Park system and a vital open space for the adjacent communities and institutions and all of Baltimore City. The committee comprised representatives of the Friends of Wyman Park Dell, Baltimore City departments of Recreation and Parks and of Planning, Friends of Maryland's Olmsted Parks and Landscapes, Charles Village Civic Association, Remington Neighborhood Alliance, Baltimore Museum of Art and Johns Hopkins.

Mark Demshak, director of architecture and planning for Johns Hopkins and an ex-officio board member of the Friends of the Wyman Park Dell, said that the university's involvement in the planning process was mutually beneficial, as the Dell is inexorably linked to the Homewood campus and to the students, faculty and staff who live and work nearby. "The Dell is without doubt an important asset to the neighborhood and also to JHU, as it is part of our entry sequence for visitors," he said.

The steering committee solicited proposals for the master plan project in winter 2005, ultimately retaining Mahan Rykiel Associates. As laid out by the firm, the overall structure and organization of the park will remain generally as is, only enhanced.

The plan does, however, call for removing the restroom structure and replacing it with a pavilion that would be part of a new park entrance near the intersection of Art Museum Drive and Charles and 31st streets. The pavilion would serve as a gathering place for getting refreshments and would have restrooms, a storage facility and a park manager's office. This combination of features would provide much-needed activity and a reason to linger in the park and, more importantly, would address concerns that this corner of the park is a generally unwelcoming "front door" with obscured visibility and perceived safety problems.

The new entrance also would include a more welcoming staircase into the park, along with a ramp for visitors with disabilities. Some of the slope area would be cleared of invasive species and replanted with low-growing native shrubs and trees to open up views into the main lawn. The plan also incorporates enhanced pathways, lighting, seating and signage.

The report identifies projects that could be implemented incrementally as funds become available and project "cheerleaders" emerge.

Holden said that the completion of the master plan is a significant milestone. Soon, she said, the physical work will begin.

"Right now," she said, "we are at the stage of what specific steps to take from here, to meet with all the interested parties and to determine just how to go about implementing this plan."


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