(This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of the South Baltimore Peninsula Post newspaper.)
In December, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore released its final design concepts for the next phase of Rash Field Park at the Inner Harbor, showing a focus on recreation and wellness to complement the first phase’s focus on children’s play and discovery. Laurie Schwartz, Waterfront Partnership president, says the vision is to “create a park rather than a field, an active, family-filled park that has both relaxing, contemplative shade areas as well as active spaces for all ages.”
Leading up to the unveiling of the new plans, Waterfront Partnership and landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates sought community input via surveys and public meetings. The most requested features were shaded areas for walking, gathering, and exercising, as well as exercise equipment. This phase of the park will include the sand volleyball courts and paved areas near the Rusty Scupper restaurant.
The new design for phase II includes the “Lawn,” a multipurpose field for special events and youth field games; the “Beach” with several sand volleyball courts; and the “Plaza” and “Gardens,” areas for fitness activities and community programs where visitors can gather and learn about nature. Connecting these areas will be several paths, including a leisure walk, nature walk, and a fitness trail. The Pride of Baltimore Memorial will be relocated within the park to be closer to the water by the Plaza.
A large portion of this area is currently covered with sand for the seven courts operated by the Baltimore Beach Volleyball club, which has sponsored games here since 1999. Although the new designs for the park cut the number of courts to six, club founder Todd Webster sees this as an opportunity for growth. “We’ll continue to work with park designers,” says Webster. “We love the idea of really re-envisioning and redeveloping the space because the beautification is something that is needed and could help the whole area.”
Waterfront Partnership has been working since 2015 with Baltimore city government officials, residents, and local nonprofits on plans to revamp the Rash Field area into a “brand-new space designed for the people of Baltimore.” The first phase opened on November 5, 2021, with a skate park, an Adventure Play area, and the BGE pavilion. The park has hosted a variety of events in and around the pavilion including a regular waterfront wellness program. Rash Field Park sees an average of nearly 2,000 daily visitors.
Waterfront Partnership is now focused on fundraising for the next phase of the park, which is estimated to cost $15 million. To date, the State of Maryland has committed $3 million to the project. There is currently enough funding in hand to begin designing and engineering the next phase of the park, Schwartz says, but construction won’t begin until full funding is secured.
Although the overall plan is mostly finalized, there are a handful of flexible spaces that are subject to change as the plans evolve. Public input on how these spaces could be used can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. – John Thomas