Janet Felsten, founder and director of the nonprofit group Baltimore Green Map, introduced the green-colored passport April 19 at a Baltimore Green Week kickoff party in the conservatory. Felsten said she created the 20-page, passport-shaped booklet on cover stock paper as a companion to a detailed map of Druid Hill Park that she made in 2010.
The purpose of the map and the new passport is partly to point out places of interest in the 745-acre park, which is home to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Druid Lake and the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, among other attractions. But the passport is also part of Felsten's larger goal to get people interested in "nature, culture, activism and sustainable living," she said.
"You will have opportunities to appreciate nature, learn history, get exercise (and) absorb culture," the passport states in its introductory page.
The passport and the map are available for a $3 donation at the front desk of the conservatory, in the park's administrative building and through Baltimore Green Map's website, http://www.baltogreenmap.org.
The passport is especially geared toward families, with games and exercises, such as a page where children and their parents can write haiku about what they hear, see and feel as they tour the park. Children can also make notes about how many times they run up and down the steps of the Liberty Pavilion at the Park Heights entrance to the park, and can draw a picture of the Palm House, the oldest, tallest part of the conservatory. They can also draw their favorite plant or flower.
Park users can also learn about the park's history during racial segregation, when whites and blacks played on separate tennis courts and swam in separate swimming pools.
Users can have the passport stamped each time they visit the park. Those who fully stamp it would be eligible for a drawing for prizes that the group Friends of Druid Hill Park is considering holding quarterly, Felsten said.
The map is useful for people once they are in the park, but the passport is designed to lure people to the park, Felsten said.
"Everybody is enjoying the map," she said. "Now, let's get them to the park. The map got a lot of people exploring the park, but I wanted to do even better. You need to give them incentive" to visit the park.
Felsten hopes the passport also will lead to increased funding for Druid Hill Park and city parks in general.
"We want to encourage people to treasure the park and become more aggressive in advocating for a good, strong budget for the park system," she said.
Mapping community resources
Felsten — a consultant, educator, urban planner and designer and former Open Society Institute fellow — said she has long been interested in the mapping of community resources, because she found in her work that "people often did not know what was three blocks from them."
The conservatory is an example of a city landmark that many residents know little about, Felsten said. Many people she has met in north Baltimore "had never stepped inside," she said.
Felsten in 2008 joined the International Green Map System, which she said is used in 65 countries. She started Baltimore Green Map and created a map of the Jones Falls Trail and watershed, using the international system's icons to denote places of interest along the trail.
Felsten's next project was a map of Druid Hill Park in honor of its 150th anniversary in 2010. That map, designed by Roland Park resident Joanne Cooper Wingard, included a timeline of the park's history and used the same international icons to show the locations of the Jones Falls Trail, community gardens, special trees and places to watch wildlife.
Now, Felsten and Baltimore Green Map have unveiled their latest project, the passport, which was designed by Elizabeth Gething, also of Roland Park.
Already using the passport is Martha Stauss, of Lauraville, an environmental scientist for Human & Rohde, a landscape architecture firm in Towson.
Stauss, a member of the group Innovate Baltimore, said she found out about the passport through the professional networking website LinkedIn and joined Baltimore Green Map.