BGE is spending $31 million to replace the first pipeline to bring natural gas to Baltimore, rerouting the World War II-era pipeline away from sensitive wetlands in Leakin Park.
The 2-mile section of the Granite Natural Gas Pipeline was built along the Dead Run tributary of the Gwynns Falls in 1949, according to BGE. It is a “critical component of the region’s natural gas system” that serves more than 650,000 customers, according to the utility company.
The replacement, which began in February and is expected to wrap up next fall, relocates it to a new route along existing park roadways to minimize impacts to the park and allow for easier maintenance, BGE said.
The company has been consulting with the city, the Friends of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, Outward Bound and other stakeholders for years about the project, A. Christopher Burton, BGE’s vice president for gas distribution, said in a statement.
“Understanding the importance of the park to the people of Baltimore and surrounding areas, BGE listened to the very important feedback from these groups which ultimately helped relocate the route with a keen focus on minimizing environmental and recreational impacts,” Burton said.
Sections of woods in the park are being cleared for the project, BGE said, but other areas that have been kept clear for the old pipeline will be allowed to grow back out.
George Farrant, 78, president of the Friends of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, called the 2-mile, 70-foot-wide clearing, which removed 700 trees, “a permanent scar now in the park.”
“The woods they took out will not return to what they once were,” he said.
The project includes $2.6 million to “replace, restore or improve” wildlife habitats and other areas of the park. The utility will pay for 900 new trees in the park, 5,500 new trees outside it and other improvements, BGE said. Through the Arbor Day Foundation, BGE is also offering 500 free trees to nearby residents on a first-come, first-served basis.
Farrant, a retired chemistry professor who lives on Briarcliff Road across from the park, acknowledged that BGE is seeking to reduce its impacts to the park. But he doesn’t think the city got enough of a commitment from the company.
“Not a lot of money goes to the city parks department,” he said.
Work on the pipeline has stalled for now, while the city and the utility await spring bird migrations and negotiate a franchise agreement to allow BGE to use the pipeline to transport gas, Farrant said. He hopes those negotiations will yield more commitments from the company.
“What our group is hoping for is that when they sign the franchise agreement, they extract a little bit more money from BGE for the damage to the park,” Farrant said.