The safety, well-being and protection of all Baltimore residents should be the number one concern of city officials. Yet a section of the city that covers more than 1,000 acres in West Baltimore goes largely neglected and unpatrolled, causing great concern there and across the city.
It’s the Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park area. On November 28, more than 100 residents attended a meeting hosted by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks to once again publicly voice concerns about the appalling condition of that area. Residents look upon abandoned cars and trash dumped in their community. They are plagued by the frequent sounds of gunfire and other indications of danger. These conditions have been the subject of frequent complaints to city departments for years.
Recently, a 71-year-old woman was brutally assaulted on a park trail. This attack, while shocking, was not surprising. Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park contains one of the largest urban forests in the country and sits within the city limits. It is unpatrolled and not maintained, despite acres of woodlands, streams, trails, a nature center and historic structures.
Little in the way of resources is directed to the area, making it a target for criminal activity instead of the urban gem it could be. We all know that Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park has a bad reputation, and it remains that way because it is ignored by our elected officials who do not prioritize it for attention.
It’s become a pattern. A crime will occur or the dumping will become more frequent. Residents seek help, and when they attend meetings, they’re promised staffing increases, maintenance improvements and expedited removal of homeless encampments and dumped trash. But then, very little happens.
At a minimum, there should be a revival of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gwynns Falls Police Unit and perhaps a collaboration with other state and federal agencies to support their patrol of the park. It is no longer acceptable to say there are funding issues when other city parks have light shows and other programs. Gwynn Falls/Leakin Park remains a very scary place, especially for families and children in West Baltimore.
It’s been too many years of neglect and excuses. Where are the emergency beacons, lights, patrols, trash and dumping monitors and other safety measures? The city needs to devote attention and resources and properly maintain and manage Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park.
Wanda Keyes Heard, Baltimore
Wanda Keyes Heard is a former chief judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit of Maryland, which has jurisdiction over Baltimore .