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Hudson's Corner: Baltimore's appearance is a mixed bag upon returning from a weekend at the beach

The first weekend of May, my husband and I always head to the beach. Few are there. We walk empty beaches, eat in half-filled restaurants and enjoy days of solitude before we return to a flurry of May-June graduations, weddings and end-of-year activities.

This year, while gone, we missed a lot of fun in Baltimore, including the final concert of the season at Shriver Hall (http://www.shriverconcerts.org) the fourth annual garden festival at Ladew and the annual Roland Park Spring Celebration, which was held a week later this year to coincide with Ciclovia V, "From Park to Park."

By all accounts, everything we missed was well attended, well organized and fun. We heard that about 200 people attended the Roland Park party and about 1,000, including the mayor, attended the ciclovia from Roland Park to Druid Hill Park.

The good-news aftermath of the ciclovia is "Laps around the Lake." Every Tuesday, from now through August, Baltimore City will offer bike lessons, $5 bike rentals and helmets, so people can ride around Lake Montebello from 5 to 8 p.m. It's terrific news that the city, which has been closing down recreation centers, is adding a recreational opportunity. There's also another bike program, "Ride around the Reservoir," at Druid Hill Park on Wednesday evenings.

Other good news on our return was that the city is planting new trees to replace the majority of those taken down for the Grand Prix last year. Finally.

Coming into the city from the beach, however, was an eye-opener. Trash on the shoulders of the ramps from Russell Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard made Baltimore look shabby. The roads at the Maryland and Delaware beaches are pristine. Why can't that be the case in Baltimore?

At the beach we saw volunteer crews in vests and gloves picking up trash Monday morning after weekend litterers had left town. Baltimore is many times larger than the beach towns and struggling with budget cuts. Surely, volunteer manpower of some sort could be organized for trash pickup.

In Pigtown, another neighborhood where I spend time, the folks at Paul's Place (http://www.paulsplaceoutreach.org) the outreach center on Ward Street, combat litter in three ways. Neighborhood residents who volunteer at the center pick up trash on Ward Street daily. Participants in the children's programs pick up trash in neighborhood pocket parks. The staff helps a homeowner with a stairwell where trash collects and is sometimes dumped. If homeowners and businesses throughout the city tackled the space around them, things might look a lot better.

In Roland Park, we saw on arrival trash blowing up Roland Avenue. Perhaps seasonal neighborhood cleanup days might be scheduled around the spring and fall ciclovias.

Before we saw the trash on Roland, we marveled at how good Centennial Park is looking. Overgrowth has been thinned. Weeds, dead branches and dead trees have been removed. Trees have been pruned. I do not remember Centennial Park looking this good since the community centennial in 1991. According to Roland Park leaders, more beautification is scheduled.

Other good news is that Gilman (http://www.gilman.edu) and Bryn Mawr (http://www.brynmawrschool.org) are contributing $350,000 apiece for city streetscape renovations near those two schools. They have also agreed to maintain the public right-of-way improvements. This is part of the $3.5 million city project to resurface Roland Avenue and install traffic-calming measures, crosswalks and streetscape enhancements on Roland Avenue, Cold Spring Lane and Wyndhurst.

Roland Park Country School (http://www.rpcs.org) has also done some beautification inside recently installed, attractive black fences. Mixed borders of evergreens, native plantings and perennials have gone in on either side of the Roland Avenue entrance. Here's hoping some rugged, small and attractive plantings will go just outside the fence, beside the Roland Avenue sidewalk.

Coming home from a trip we always notice good things as well as areas needing improvement. Here's to a summer of further city improvements.

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