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The Dripby Brew Editors3:10 pmOct 3, 20120

UPDATE: Kraft cancels Patterson Park hearings and will work with mayor’s group

City Councilman James Kraft said tonight he is canceling three community meetings to protest more parking in Patterson Park, given Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s decision to convene a working group to develop a master plan for the park.

“All of the plans of DRP [Department of Recreation and Parks] and the HD [Health Department] have been placed on hold,” he wrote. “This does not mean that they have been taken off the table. It means that they have been stopped and are not moving forward now.”

He said he wants the community to join the working group and hold the city to a commitment of not adding parking or more cars to the park.

The first meeting should be held by the end of the month. “Any delay in the creation of the group is not in the best interest of the park or our neighborhoods,” he wrote.

He further vowed that all plans, proposals and actions made by the working group will be shared with the community.

Here is the text of his message:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As most of you know, on Monday, October 1, 2012 I sponsored a meeting at the Virginia Baker Recreation Center in Patterson Park at the request of the Department of Recreation and Parks (“DRP”) and the Health Department (“HD”).  This meeting was attended by hundreds of citizens who voiced their strong opposition to any plans that would bring more cars, parking or paving into the Park.

During the evening, community members and representatives of most of the organizations and associations surrounding and within the Park delivered the same message: “No more cars, no more parking, no more paving,” and the petition in opposition to the DRP proposal containing over 5,000 signatures was presented to Mr. Vondrasek.

Senator Ferguson, Delegates Clippinger, Hammen and McHale, and the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff were also in attendance on Monday night.

For anyone to whom it was not clear beforehand, it soon became evident: the entire Patterson Park community was unified in its support of a greener and safer park; one that does not envision more cars nor the needs that such additional traffic would require.

Yesterday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake intervened on behalf of the community and ordered the DRP and the HD to work with me and the community to create a Patterson Park Master Plan Working Group (the “Working Group”)  (the statement and Master Plan can be found here: http://jimkraft.net/useful_information_).

Three more meetings were scheduled – east, west and south of the Park – for further discussions of the DRP and HD proposals.  The next one is planned for this Saturday morning, October 6, at the Hampstead Hill Academy. However, as a result of the Mayor’s decision to partner with us, this and all future meetings have been cancelled.

The message that we conveyed at Monday evening’s meeting was heard loudly and clearly.  All of the plans of DRP and the HD have been placed on hold.  This does not mean that they have been taken off the table.  It means that they have been stopped and are not moving forward now.

The Mayor’s charge to the Working Group is to “create comprehensive, community-driven strategies to enhance green space, increase traffic safety and facility improved recreational opportunities in and around” the Park.

Absent a statement from the Administration to the contrary, I think that this charge, coupled with Mr. Vondrasek’s pledge that no actions would be taken in the Park without the support of the community, commits the City to achieving our goals in the Park. I believe that we should hold them to this commitment.

So, where do we go from here?

First, we cancel the meetings presently scheduled for Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday in anticipation of the first meeting of the Working Group.

Second, we work with the DRP and the HD to create the Working Group and schedule its first meeting before the end of this month.  It is important that we do not loose the momentum that we have created here.  Any delay in the creation of the Group is not in the best interest of the Park or our neighborhoods.

Third, as a principal partner in the Working Group, I will work with DRP and the HD to make certain that all its plans, proposals and actions are shared with the community.  There must never be any question about what the Group is doing and whether it is being done in an open and transparent way.  Nor should there be any question as to whether the community has had an opportunity to participate in the development of the Master Plan or whether it is reflective of its desires for the future of the Park.

I thank Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake for her responsiveness to our concerns and her commitment to us and the Park.

Most importantly, I thank all of you who have petitioned, knocked on doors, e-mailed, texted, telephoned, tweeted – just downright, old-fashioned, organized – to get out our message over the last few weeks. Your efforts have not gone unrewarded.

I look forward to continuing our work as we make Southeast the best place to live, work and play in the great city of Baltimore.

Jim Kraft
Councilman, First District


Earlier BREW post:

Vondrasek discusses Patterson Park on WYPR

Here’s a link to today’s segment on WYPR’s Maryland Morning featuring acting director of Recreation and Parks for Baltimore, Bill Vondrasek.

Host Sheilah Kast asks Vondrasek to talk about the plan to add a road and parking lots to Patterson Park  and how the city handled the proposal.

Yesterday – in the wake of a petition opposing the idea signed by more than 5,000 people and a Monday night meeting in which Vondrasek faced nearly 500 people who appeared to be overwhelmingly against it – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the formation of a “working group” to tackle the Patterson Park Master Plan.

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