Stream links visions for Owings Mills

Instead of a lake as the center of Baltimore County's growing new town at Owings Mills, a series of paths, large sculptures, a nature center, and a historic house could adorn the banks of the meandering trout stream called Red Run.

Those were ideas that graduate landscape architecture students from Morgan State University presented to county planners yesterday. The students have been working on the project since September.


The idea to dam the stream and create a 100-acre lake died a hard but merciful death in May, after the county's 10-year effort to get federal and state regulatory agencies to permit the construction failed.

Judy Smith, one of the Morgan State students, said the election of Vice President-elect Al Gore, an environmentalist, is the latest sign that the old ways of doing business, such as bulldozing trout streams for dams and lakes, are gone forever. It's time to think differently about our surroundings, she told the small group gathered in a county meeting room.


"Instead of lamenting the lack of a lake, get excited about having a trout stream," she said. "We won't return to the slash and burn ways of the pioneers. We're on the cusp of change."

Ms. Smith, Ling Choo, Constantine Tsamouras, and Darren Dillon, all from Morgan State, presented their ideas to Jack Dillon, the senior county planner for Owings Mills.

P. David Fields, county planning director, said the county hopes to devise a concept for the stream valley park this winter. The concept will be presented to developers, who had planned massive office-hotel and commercial buildings around the lake. County officials hope the developers like the new ideas and won't renege on commitments to donate land that would have been the lake bottom for use as parkland.

At the meeting, Ms. Choo talked about using paths to link residential areas. Children's play equipment could be placed at various points along the paths. Office and commercial buildings would face the open space, instead of Red Run Boulevard. She, like the other students, proposed closing Dolfield Road at both ends and turning it into a hiking-biking pathway.

Mr. Tsamouras proposed building a 12-story tower and making it a central visual point for the whole area, and putting a three-hole recreational golf course near the office buildings. The course and the tower would be built on the northern end of the property, near Interstate-795. He and Mr. Dillon said small ponds could be used as decorations near the offices, or even partially under some of the buildings.

Darren Dillon proposed placing large outdoor sculptures along the stream valley. These would link the meadows with paths that bring hikers and bikers from an outer ring of offices and residential developments to an inner ring of parkland. Ms. Smith wanted to use a historic house on the south side for a small museum. This would give the area a link with its past as a mill center in the late 1700s, she said.

Several of the students criticized the idea that Owings Mills Mall, surrounded by acres of parking lots, should be thought of as the "center" of Owings Mills. But county planner Jack Dillon cautioned that office buildings and garages will be built on those parking lots.

"Where the eventual town center will be is still emerging," he told the students.