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Splash of cash: Baltimore's Druid Hill Park pool closing for $6.5M renovation aided by surge in open space money

Druid Hill Park's 60-year-old pool will be closed for the next two years amid a $6.5 million renovation and improvement project.

State officials approved $1.1 million of that budget Wednesday, part of a surge of state money going to city parks. The Maryland Board of Public Works also approved money for improvements at three other recreation facilities.

Construction is set to begin in the spring on a new bathhouse and a reconstructed pool area, to include three separate pools as well as water slides, a playground and a climbing wall.

The pool is scheduled to reopen for summer 2021.

“It’s meant to be a regional park pool,” said Adam Boarman, chief of capital development for the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks. “It’s a little more activated from your standard pool.”

The state money for the project is part of the city’s $9.7 million share this year from Program Open Space, a fund dedicated to preserve and grow parks and other public lands. The program is funded through the state’s real estate transfer tax.

Governors and state lawmakers have routinely raided the fund to balance budgets, but a state law passed in 2016 stopped that practice and required past transfers be paid back in the coming years.

Under the legislation, a flow of grants for Baltimore park projects has grown from $1.5 million in fiscal 2017 to $5.5 million in the current fiscal year. The city is scheduled to receive $6 million in subsequent years.

Other projects approved for the state open space funding Wednesday include:

  • A new pool at the Walter P. Carter recreation center in Northeast Baltimore, to replace an existing pool that will be removed as Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School is expanded.
  • New windows, roofing, flooring, lights and restrooms at the Mary E. Rodman Recreation Center in West Baltimore.
  • New and improved turf fields, a walking path with fitness equipment, a community garden, a playground and a basketball court at Bocek Park Athletic Center at Frank C. Bocek Park in East Baltimore.
  • Extension of the Jones Falls Trail from Cylburn Park through the Mount Washington neighborhood.

Boarman said the open space money will allow a surge of construction projects at city parks and rec centers to proceed in the coming years. The city is in the process of evaluating needs at each of its 43 centers, he said.

“Just about all of them could use some upgrades,” he said. “We will basically attack them one at a time starting with what is in the most dire need.”

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