By John Schmid, Special to the AFRO

Hanlon Park looks like it was hit with a bomb.

A great mound of dark brown earth sits in the park’s center. Jutting out of the heap are the bleaching roots of barely buried stumps. It’s the aftermath of what is left of one of a shrinking number of green spaces in Baltimore City.

Building on its success in Towson and the Montebello II filtration plant, Baltimore’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is in the midst of turning over two more parks in the metro area.

Mounds of dirt replace rows of trees that once lined the reservoir at Hanlon Park in West Baltimore, as a result of construction that will allegedly last for several years. (Photo credit: John Schmid)

Federal guidelines demand that any open-air reservoirs, like Druid Hill Park Lake in Druid Hill Park and Lake Ashburton in Hanlon Park (both in West Baltimore), be covered and given additional chemical purification treatment.

So, to maintain the parks overall aesthetics in the long term, concrete tanks will be buried in each park. Two tanks in Hanlon park are expected to collect over 50 million gallons of drinking water, while Druid Hill Park’s buried reservoir will hold over 54 millions gallons of drinking water.

Baltimore Parks and Recreation did not respond to multiple AFRO requests for information and DPW referred the AFRO to its website for answers to the paper’s questions.

DPW’s website states that the Druid Lake Project is budgeted at $140 million and the Ashburton Lake project is budgeted at $137 million. DPW goes on to state that Maryland and Baltimore County (a longtime consumer of city water) are making financial contributions, but does not specify an amount or percentage. Direct questions to DPW about what, if any federal contributions there would be made in satisfying a federal regulation were not answered. Also, no answers were provided regarding the long or short term impact on housing values in the area.

The Hanlon Park project is scheduled to run until November 2022.

One resident (who didn’t want to be identified by name), living on the Powhatan Avenue side of Hanlon Park, hoped that the development would ultimately raise the value of her and her neighbor’s homes. In the meantime, while concerned about the seemingly forgotten dead trees browning and withering and the dying grass beneath them, she’s glad for the improved view of the lake.

She attended a number of community meetings between the city and Hanlon residents, but grumbled about how the meetings gave out information as opposed to consensus building.

“Their mind was already made up,” she told the AFRO.

She said she still has her favorite red-wing blackbird that perches on her house. There’s nowhere else for it to go now. With the tree clearance at the south side of the park, nothing near the lake has strong enough branches to support them.

Questions to DPW about the blackbirds disappearing as the trees disappeared and the rise the pests they would eat were not answered. Questions about the trash, styrofoam cups, soda bottles, a Thiru Vignarajah campaign sign now blowing through where the trees used to and into the Ashburton Lake also went unanswered.

Herman Kelly, lives on Liberty Heights Avenue. He could not contain himself upon seeing the destruction.

“I’m so frustrated because they tore down all the trees and I feel some kind of way about this, I really do,” Kelly said. “The part that bothers me; I love nature, and man, that just hurts. All those trees up there. I used to go sit in the park, look at the water, because to me, that’s spiritual. That’s part of my spirituality.”

Kelly also used the quiet space to write, now he goes the distance to work in what remains open in Druid Hill Park.

Kelly wished DPW had at least put up a picture of what the finished project might look like, to give him some hope.

“Now, I’m looking at this, not knowing what’s going on, and I’m hurt,” he said, pointing to the heap of dirt and stump. “I’m hurt.”