Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel, the celebrated personifications of Inner Harbor cleanup, could soon have a new colleague, spouse or big brother.
The Healthy Harbor Initiative is raising $770,000 for a third trash wheel that filters debris from local waterways.
This wheel would be the initiative's largest yet, catching trash that washes down the Gwynns Falls into the Patapsco River's Middle Branch. The waterway carries a heavier flow of water, debris and trash than the Jones Falls, where Mr. Trash Wheel has gathered a million pounds of detritus since being installed in 2014.
The Gwynns Falls drains 66 square miles, including the western third of Baltimore City and the Interstate 795 corridor in Baltimore County, to Owings Mills and Reisterstown. It's responsible for the vast majority of junk that litters shorelines in Westport, Cherry Hill, Brooklyn and beyond.
It is the Port Covington development in South Baltimore, though, that is helping to spur the project. The initiative, a project of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, has already received a commitment for "significant contributions" from Sagamore Development, which is behind the Port Covington project, said Adam Lindquist, the initiative's director.
"We've always kind of had our eye on the Middle Branch -- we've always known we wanted to do something with trash over there," he said. "Port Covington created new momentum for people to get behind this project."
Sagamore, a private real estate firm owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, has proposed redeveloping 260 acres in the mostly industrial waterfront area into a community of offices, homes, shopping, restaurants, waterfront parks and a new state-of-the-art campus for Under Armour.
The trash wheel wouldn't be visible from the development, but "what you can see from Port Covington is all the trash on the shoreline," Lindquist said.
The project has also secured donations from the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, a community benefits district in the neighborhoods around Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, and from Continental Realty, a landowner around the Middle Branch, he said.
The trash wheel would be installed at the mouth of the Gwynns Falls, near the BRESCO trash incinerator and the casino on Russell Street. Lindquist said he hopes to work out a deal with BRESCO that would send the trash the wheel collects directly into the facility.
He declined to say how much of the wheel's price tag has been raised so far. There is no timeline yet for when the wheel would be installed.
But Lindquist said interest has already been high, given the success of Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel, installed at Harris Creek in December. Just this week, he said he has fielded calls from people interested in similar projects in Chicago, Serbia, Nigeria, China, Brazil and Ecuador.
"It's just incredible how much people are responding to this technology," developed by Pasadena-based company Clearwater Mills, Lindquist said. "Everyone in Baltimore has actually seen the proof of the concept."
The new trash wheel's identity isn't even in the formative stages yet, he said.
"It's way too early to start thinking about naming and googly eyes," he said. "I don't know what relationship this trash wheel will have to Professor or Mr. Trash Wheel, but I look forward to finding out."