Baltimore County Now
As part of the County’s commemoration of the anniversary of the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Park, "Opening the Gates: Celebrating Gwynn Oak Amusement Park 50 Years Later," several Baltimore County officials contributed their personal recollections about the park for Baltimore County NOW.
The Meeting Spot
Cynthia Pollock, Executive Assistant to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
I recall that, initially, when I was younger, we could not go to Gwynn Oak Park. My parents never elaborated, they just said that we could not go. There always seemed to be a lot of commotion going on. Later, when I became a teenager, Gwynn Oak Park was the meeting spot for us kids when we got out of school, especially on Fridays. We would meet up, catch the #38 bus, and we were let out right at the park. I have fond memories of riding the Ferris Wheel and the Wild Mouse, as well as eating too much cotton candy and meeting boys. Looking back, I realize that those memories would not have been possible without the trailblazers of the Civil Rights movement who picketed for equal rights for everyone.
A New Appreciation for Gwynn Oak Park
Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker Pro Tem and Delegate, Maryland House of Delegates
How do I remember Gwynn Oak Park? At nine years old, I was not permitted to go. I remember my mother's face as she explained why my brothers and I couldn't ride the rides or play the games like the kids on the other side of that gate.
Even after its desegregation, I didn't have the desire to go there for a very long time.
When Hurricane Agnes came in 1972 and flooded Gwynn Falls, I didn't truly feel the effect of the park's closing because I could not attend as a child.
In more recent years, my appreciation for the park has grown. The exclusion I felt as a child no longer exists, and I now sometimes visit the park to attend lively cultural festivals and the great events held there by community groups, nonprofit organizations and the faith-based community.
This timely commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Gwynn Oak Park's desegregation not only recognizes the past, it further opens the gate to a more diverse Baltimore County, and a more diverse Maryland. I look forward to seeing you on July 7.
One Sunday Afternoon at Gwynn Oak Park
Larry Simmons, Special Assistant to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Sarah Jane Bundy was the head of the local NAACP branch in our community when Gwynn Oak Park was desegregated. As I recall, she was responsible for encouraging parents and their children to visit the park. My first trip there, however, occurred the second summer after the park was integrated. My brother and I had planned the trip for several weeks after Sarah Jane spoke with our mother. One goal of the local NAACP branch was to recruit teens and young adults who would not react violently to taunts and physical threats, which was in keeping with Dr. King’s doctrine of non-violence. I guess we fit the mold, or perhaps we were just naïve.
The first trip was on a Sunday afternoon. We went to mass first, for a little extra spiritual strength and moral support. Then we joined three of our buddies and traveled to the park by bus. Yes, it was the #28 bus, which took us straight there. In fact, the park was located at the end of the line, which meant that the bus stop for the return trip was close by, in case there was trouble. We did our best to sit near the back of the bus because the older guys always held a “Motown Review.” Having an opportunity to travel through other neighborhoods was another highlight for most of us. My father owned a car, so I wasn’t too thrilled about getting on the rides at the park because touring Baltimore with my father and uncle on a Saturday afternoon was far more exciting, but that’s another story!
I remember entering Gwynn Oak Park for the first time. There were a couple of policemen near the gate who gave us a once over, but were more concerned about gate crashers. A few of the white kids also gave us the big stare-down, or as we called it, “The Look.” I was rather used to that look because I attended an integrated junior high school. While we were purchasing our tickets, several mothers pulled their children out of the line. That was to our advantage, though, because we were able to get on the rides quicker. As for the rides, the “Wild Mouse” was the best thing going. The other rides were fair, but the kids seemed extremely excited. Most people just seemed to be walking back and forth checking out the attractions, or losing money on the various games.
In the end, for me, that day didn’t feel all that different than any other Sunday afternoon. Only in my later years did I come to truly understand the significance of my first visit to Gwynn Oak Park.
During my high school years, a group of us decided to sponsor bus trips to other parks such Hersey, Glenn Echo, Wild Wood and Atlantic City. The venture proved to be rather profitable, although we still got those “looks” when we arrived at the out of state parks.
Whether local or across state lines, “The Look” was “The Look.” Fortunately, nowadays, if I go to parks like Gwynn Oak, “The Look” is no nowhere to be seen.
Black and White
Fronda Cohen, Baltimore County Office of Communications
Some of my favorite days as a kid involved a trip to my aunt and uncle’s corner grocery store. It was one of those small, family-owned stores where the shelves were so high you needed a long stick with a grabber at the end to snag a can of peas. The bottles in the large red Coca-Cola cooler needed an opener, and the penny candy actually cost a penny.
The neighborhood was Argyle and Mosher Streets. Today, it’s called Upton. The neighbors were black, and my aunt and uncle were white, but you’d hardly know the difference, the way folks would stop into the store just to say, “Hi, Mr. Morris,” to my uncle or, “Meet my new baby granddaughter,” or, “My son just got a great report card.”
In 1963, Mr. Morris could visit Gwynn Oak Park.
His neighbors could not.
Even a kid knew that just wasn’t fair.
Director, Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance
Today at 10 a.m., the Baltimore County Council voted to adopt County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s proposed budget for FY 2014 with only minor changes. The adopted budget totals $2.78 billion — an increase of just 2.81 % above the previous year.
I invite you to take a look at the comprehensive budget originally proposed by the County Executive. Meanwhile, here is the FY 14 adopted budget at a glance:
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
For almost 125 years, Sparrows Point was synonymous with steel; steel that built battleships and the Golden Gate Bridge. That proud tradition ended in 2012, when RG Steel closed the Sparrows Point steel mill.
We never viewed the Sparrows Point peninsula as the resting place of a declining smokestack industry, but as 5.3 square miles of land with a combination of assets rarely found in one place in the Northeast United States. We have every reason to believe the unique assets on the peninsula, led by explosive growth at the Port of Baltimore, will bring more than 10,000 new jobs to Eastern Baltimore County. Here’s why.
The Sparrows Point peninsula has 3,300 acres of industrially zoned land, over 6 miles of deepwater frontage, two commercial railroads, direct access to the Beltway and I-95, and a highly capable, motivated workforce. This combination is precisely what’s needed for industrial and maritime uses.
In February 2012, I established the Sparrows Point Partnership, a business advisory group chaired by Dan Gundersen, Executive Director of the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development, to study opportunities for business attraction and job growth on the peninsula. The Partnership identified four major market opportunities: port and maritime uses, clean energy, advanced manufacturing and assembly, and distribution, logistics and freight.
Port and Maritime
The expanded Panama Canal opens new global shipping opportunities, making a new marine terminal at Coke Point a real possibility for the peninsula. The Coke Point area can accommodate a dredge containment site that will allow maintenance, and therefore extended vitality, of existing port operations. Once the dredge containment site is filled out in about 10 years, a new marine terminal can be built on the site, creating an estimated 9,000 new family supporting jobs. Another 1,000 jobs could be created within three years on the east side of Coke Point near the turn-around basin, with a former iron ore pier immediately available for bulk commodities, including loading and unloading of automobiles.
Sparrows Point’s central location and available industrial land could accommodate clean, renewable energy facilities for solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, and small hydroelectric power generation. Maryland’s newly authorized offshore wind operations will require vast assembly and equipment staging areas compatible with the peninsula.
Sparrows Point holds market opportunities in advanced manufacturing and value added assembly for a range of products including high speed, heavy and light rail transportation, rail cars and ships, and marine vehicles. Additional opportunities relate to key export sectors such as electrical equipment, advanced fabrication of metal products, and specialized machinery.
With direct rail, port and interstate access, Sparrows Point holds potential for distribution and logistics parks that add value to the supply chain. New concepts such as “freight villages,” for example, offer warehousing space for various term leases, along with equipment and services supporting logistics and distribution activities.
Environmental condition of the property
Despite environmental contamination from more than 100 years of steelmaking, the Partnership concluded that environmental constraints should not deter industrial redevelopment for the vast majority of Sparrows Point. Remediation and redevelopment of about 80% of the site – approximately 2,400 acres -- should be feasible in the not-too-distant future. Five areas with the most serious contamination, totaling about 600 acres primarily at Coke Point, would require extensive, challenging remediation, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
For generations, Sparrows Point and the industrial neighborhoods of East Baltimore County have represented the promise of good paying jobs and the potential for greater economic prosperity. We now have a broad vision for how we can return that promise back to reality.
In the coming weeks, we will present this vision to the community for feedback.
With the Port in the lead, we have every reason to be optimistic that the new Sparrows Point will bring at least 10,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in new investment. And that benefits everyone in Baltimore County.
The full Sparrows Point Partnership report is available on line at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/business .