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Memorial service Saturday for Beth Strommen, Baltimore environmental planner

Beth Ann Strommen, who as environmental planner for the city championed the Gwynns Falls Trail, bicycle lanes and local green space, will be remembered Saturday at a life celebration in Baltimore.

Ms. Strommen, who retired in 2016 as the director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, died of cancer May 7 at Gilchrist Hospice Towson at age 55. She had homes in the Abell community and in Crownsville.

"Beth's dedication to making Baltimore a better place for future generations was unmatched,” said Tom Stosur, director of planning for the city. “People of all types were drawn to her contagious energy, generous spirit and zany sense of humor.”

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., she was the daughter of Robert Strommen, a minister with the United Church of Christ, and his wife, Joyce Strommen.

“Beth grew up with three siblings in a household steeped in social justice practices, open arms for lost souls and an emphasis on the joy and vitality of family,” said Margaret Martin, her wife of 12 years. “Beth often commented that her veins coursed with industrial rust, and as a result, Baltimore just called to her.”

She received a degree in forestry from the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse and a degree in planning from the University of Maryland.

Ms. Strommen came to Baltimore in the early 1990s and joined the city’s Department of Planning.

“During her 26 years with the city, Beth’s vision included conceiving and nurturing the Jones Falls and the Gwynns Falls trails into reality, [and] developing the Middle Branch Master Plan,” said Ms. Martin. “She piloted both the Harbor Master Plan and the Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District.”

She also started the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.

“While the Planning Department had established its initial environmental division in the 1970s under Larry Reich, Beth was instrumental in broadening its purview to include sustainability, and having that integrated in the work program and city policy decisions,” said Alfred W. J. Barry III, a former assistant city planning director.

“She was involved in her department’s many social activities and was a great mentor to young planners who were coming on board,” said Mr. Barry.

She was the 2016 recipient of the Mayor’s Meritorious Service Medallion.

“First and foremost, Beth loved Baltimore. She loved the authenticity and energy of Baltimoreans,” said Circuit Judge Edward Hargadon, a neighbor. “She was a true visionary, imagining our city as a vibrant, growing metropolis where we can live in many, many green spaces. And she pursued that goal with a healthy irreverence and a contagious sense of humor.”

Judge Hargadon added: “Beth was a very spiritual person. She was Buddhist and a member of the Baltimore Shambhala Meditation Center in Charles Village. Beth had a deep conviction that true happiness for all of us is rooted in compassion. I think that meant compassion for one another and compassion for our environment.”

She gave talks at the Shambhala Center. Friends said she used her own experiences to gently encourage others to consider personal questions.

“Beth gave some of the most inspiring talks on what it was like to be joyful and loving,” Judge Hargadon said.

Ms. Strommen enjoyed cooking and gardening, and was a board member of the 32nd Street Waverly Farmers Market. She grew vegetables in her own yard and in community garden plots. She was a cookbook reader and traveler. She also bicycled.

“Beth adored trees. She truly never met one she didn’t like,” said Ms. Martin.

The life celebration will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the 2640 Space, St. Paul and 27th streets.

In addition to her wife, an civil engineer, survivors include two sisters, Gayle Strommen of Baltimore and Ingrid Ziegler of Wheaton, Ill.; a brother, Erik Strommen of Seattle; and nieces and nephews.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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