North Baltimore communities celebrate opening of footbridge a decade in the works

Wielding a giant pair of scissors, community leaders in North Baltimore snipped a green ribbon Saturday, officially opening a footbridge over Stony Run.

The bridge can be strolled across in about a minute, but this was a moment almost 10 years in the making.

The bridge, and another nearby, are final links in the Stony Run path, connecting several miles of trail. The bridges cost more than $1 million to put up.

Anne S. Perkins, a member of Friends of Stony Run, welcomed about 100 people, including a clutch of politicians and officials, to the formal opening.

“This is a truly wonderful thing,” said Perkins, who shares her name with a character in the show “Parks and Recreation” who is similarly devoted to improving her community’s green spaces.

As she spoke, people ran and cycled across the bridge, seemingly unaware of the ceremonies taking place. The metal bridge spans Stony Run in the shadow of a much larger one that carries University Parkway high above.

Before it was completed, intrepid joggers would splash across the stream and scramble up the banks. But for those unwilling or unable to do that, following along the path meant a long detour through the street.

Now an unbroken path following the line of the old Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad stretches from Roland Park past the Johns Hopkins University and into Remington.

William Vondrasek, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, explained why it took so long to finish the project.

First, state funding for the project had to be secured. That took two fiscal years, Vondrasek said.

Then there were community meetings, followed by design and development so the city could start the formal bidding process.

That bidding took six months, followed by a period of review to make sure minority business goals were being hit.

Then a contract was awarded, a formal notice to proceed was issued, and finally construction started.

“Building things takes time,” Vondrasek said. “People don’t understand all the steps.”

Getting the bridges built also involved a long list of people, who were thanked on the back of the program for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

They included politicians from the City Council and former Gov. Martin O’Malley. There were state bureaucrats and ones from the city, too. There were private funders and designers. And there were some four dozen volunteers.

Summing up the effort, Mary Page Michel from the Roland Park Community Foundation borrowed a slogan more commonly associated with street protests.

“This is what democracy looks like, huh?” she said, to applause. “When a group of people want something for their community and they go to their leaders and they say this is what we want, and they stay determined, we can get this gorgeous bridge.”

iduncan@baltsun.com

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