A day after hundreds of Baltimore residents voiced strong opposition to a preliminary plan to add more parking spaces and an access road to Patterson Park, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Tuesday that she was creating a "working group" to study the park's future.
"Today, I've ordered the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Health Department to work with Councilman [James] Kraft and community stakeholders to create a Patterson Park Master Plan Working Group," Rawlings-Blake wrote in a letter sent to citizens. "The working group will be charged with building upon the existing master plan to create comprehensive, community-driven strategies to enhance green space, increase traffic safety, and facilitate improved recreational opportunities in and around Patterson Park."
The plan that sparked the backlash is based in part on the city health department's desire to transfer activities at the John Booth Senior Center in Highlandtown to the park's 119-year-old Casino building.
The mayor's letter comes after a contentious Monday night meeting held at the park's Virginia S. Baker Recreation Center — one of four such events planned by Kraft and city officials — and follows weeks of unrest over the parking plan among local residents. Thousands have signed a petition against the plan on the website Change.org.
Ryan O'Doherty, a Rawlings-Blake spokesman, said many had also called the mayor's office directly.
"The mayor has been paying very close attention to the community, and has been concerned about the way this process has been unfolding," O'Doherty said. "What she wants to do is really look at this in a constructive way, and she's tasked her agencies to get with the community and really drill down and look at the individual issues and come up with common-sense solutions."
Rawlings-Blake has previously said Kraft "poisoned the well for discussion" about the plans for the park by suggesting they were finalized when they are not, a charge he denies.
Kraft did not return a request for comment on the working group.
Three more meetings are scheduled: Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Hampstead Hill Academy, 500 S. Linwood Avenue; Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's Church, 2028 E. Lombard Street; and Oct. 11 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Breath of God Lutheran Church, 141 S. Clinton Street.