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Here’s what you need to know about the redevelopment of Baltimore’s Rash Field park

A gaggle of schoolchildren dug colorful plastic shovels into a trough of earth and flung it into the air Tuesday at Rash Field as they joined city and state officials in kicking off the first phase of the Inner Harbor park’s planned redevelopment.

The long-anticipated redesign of the park, which began as early as 2013 amid talks of reshaping Baltimore’s Inner Harbor into a 21st century tourist attraction, will mold the space into one that can serve the city’s diverse population all year long, officials said.

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Sourcing ideas from neighborhood residents, local activists, community groups and families, the development team — comprised of the Waterfront Partnership and landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel as well as construction firm Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. — plans to create a space for education, environmental study, health and fitness, recreation and entertainment.

Here’s everything you need to know about Rash Field’s next chapter.

What will it look like?

A rendering of the vision for the new Rash Field, which will be under construction for the next 18 months.
A rendering of the vision for the new Rash Field, which will be under construction for the next 18 months. (Waterfront Partnership/Mahan Rykiel)

By spring or summer 2021, the new Rash Field will feature a sandy area called the beach for volleyball, a skate park, a fitness area and a swath of field space for open play and sports leagues, officials said. A pavilion with a cafe and overlook will offer views of the Inner Harbor and city skyline.

There will be a series of labs — educational spaces designed for kids — that officials hope will draw local families and tourists to the new Rash Field, which many called “underutilized” in its current form. There will be labs for birds, butterflies, nutrition, fitness and even stormwater. There also will be a “kinetic play area” — also known as a playground.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who spoke at the groundbreaking event, said the park’s transformation will attract city residents and visitors from all walks of life and create a safe and central location for communities to gather.

“This project creates a state-of-the-art, 7.5 acre recreational park for all of Baltimore, replacing an outdated design that has failed to draw people to this beautiful location for far too long,” Young said. “This is not a park for any single neighborhood or just for tourists. It’s for everyone in the city of Baltimore.”

Laurie Schwartz, president and CEO of the Waterfront Partnership, said construction equipment and crews will begin mobilizing onto the site within the next few weeks.

Why is this happening?

Schwartz said the Inner Harbor’s creation 50 years ago helped prevent the city’s economic decline and serves as an important anchor for Baltimore. From Fourth of July fireworks to Super Bowl parades and running festivals, the location draws communities and visitors together several times throughout the year.

But in Rash Field’s current state, Schwartz said, its reach proves limited. After surveying several neighborhood groups and individuals, Schwartz said the Waterfront Partnership found that the key to unlocking Rash Field’s potential depended on its free offerings. Its planned open spaces for play, learning and gatherings will allow for a more diverse range of usage, she said.

Maryland Del. Brooke Lierman, a Democrat who represents Baltimore’s 46th district, said the city’s divisions based on race and class differences makes Rash Field’s redevelopment all the more crucial.

“Our parks offer something that no other public amenity can. They offer a space where everyone is welcome,” she said. "And when we as a government invest in our parks, we demonstrate our commitment and our truth not only to building happy and cohesive and integrated public spaces but also to creating livable cities.”

A mix of public and private funding will finance the project’s $16.8 million price tag. Schwartz said individual gifts as small as $5 from students made the work possible.

Who influenced the makeover?

City and state officials from Baltimore’s representatives in the Maryland General Assembly to members of the Baltimore City Council support the vision for the new Rash Field. But officials at the groundbreaking event Tuesday credited children and young adults with offering helpful input and dedicated the park to them.

Skateboarder Joey Jett waves while being acknowledged for his efforts, spearheading tens of thousands in donation dollars as Waterfront Partnership symbolically breaks ground on Phase I (of two phases) of the future Rash Field Park, an urban waterfront park to replace the 7.5-acre recreational park on the south side of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Tue., Jan. 7, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Skateboarder Joey Jett waves while being acknowledged for his efforts, spearheading tens of thousands in donation dollars as Waterfront Partnership symbolically breaks ground on Phase I (of two phases) of the future Rash Field Park, an urban waterfront park to replace the 7.5-acre recreational park on the south side of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Tue., Jan. 7, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

In particular, Young awarded a special certificate of recognition to professional skateboarder Joey “Jett” Hornish, a 21-year-old Towson native whose talents have taken him all over the world. Hornish helped design the park’s skate park and raised as much as $35,000 at an art show to donate to Rash Field.

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Hornish said Baltimore’s vibrant skating community can make a positive difference, but has limited places to hone the craft.

“It’s been a struggle skateboarding in the streets, and there’s some dangerous neighborhoods, so it’s good to have a place for skaters to go,” he said. “It can be a place where kids skate for fun and not be scared and feel like they’re committing a crime.”

The skate park will be named after Jake Owen, a 5-year-old boy who was struck and killed while riding in the backseat of a car in 2011 by a distracted driver who was using a cellphone. The child is remembered as a fixture of South Baltimore who relished in the city’s public facilities.

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