Even before the forsythia's bright yellow early blooms have arrived in Stony Run park, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists were out enjoying the seemingly secluded nature path in North Baltimore Saturday morning.
Several children played along the stream's edge, picking up rocks or dipping their hand into the cool water. It's something Doug Frost remembers doing with his own children when they were growing up.
"That's exactly what happens," he said, watching the young kids running along the water's edge. "They would play in the stream."
Frost, whose home backs up to the park's edge and now has 15 grandchildren, was one of about two dozen residents who walked its path Saturday to make recommendations for future improvements. The Roland Park Community Foundation is spearheading a study to find ways to preserve and improve the trail and stream, which runs roughly from Northern Parkway to Remington before spilling into the Jones Falls. The stream is ultimately a tributary of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.
During the tour, Tom McGilloway, a board member with Friends of Stony Run, a volunteer stewardship organization for the stream valley, took notes on a map of the path he carried on a clipboard, as he and others combed along a section just south of Wyndhurst Avenue.
The recommendations made Saturday would be considered for a strategic plan being developed for the park by the Roland Park Community Foundation.
In some areas, the group pointed out erosion issues; in other, they noted places for new infrastructure.
The tour allowed for a "more hands-on" opportunity for residents to look at and talk about the trail, he said, rather then just submitting input at a community meeting or through email.
Overall, proposals are intended "to preserve the natural character," McGilloway said. "It's a wonderful gem."
Once the plan is developed, it will be shared with the city. Some of the less intensive work would be taken on by volunteers, he said, while more involved projects likely would left to the city, which owns the land.
Robert Friedman, who has called Evergreen community home for 17 years, said he came out because "I care about the neighborhood."
He occasionally walks through the park but said he came more often when his kids were younger.
In past years, he volunteered to take water quality samples of the water, looking for any sewage overflow or other issues.
One improvement he said he would like to see is a small boardwalk added along a section of the path that travels over some natural springs, where the trail can get swampy, he said.
He'd also like to see some wood chips added on the walking path to improve its surface texture.
"I want it to be preserved and protected, made nicer but not fancy," he said, saying the park's natural scenery should not be overshadowed by any improvements.
While most plants have yet to bloom along the path, Friedman said the park is an attraction throughout the whole year.
"It's a nice resource to get away from the cares of the city," he said.
While the path's attraction has been for its natural setting in the middle of the city, it has seen changes over the years, said Frost, who pointed along the path where the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad once ran.
Along the stream, he said the water has cut its own path over the years but stones have been added in some sections of the embankment.
"It's always changing," he said of the area. But kids, he said, always will be drawn to "the beach."