Spring Grove Arboretum and Community Park Master Plan

This Master Plan sets forth the proposal by the “Spring Grove Arboretum, Inc.” to lease 50+ acres of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Spring Grove Hospital Campus in Catonsville, MD, for public use as the “Spring Grove Arboretum and Community Park”.

The Spring Grove Arboretum, Inc. is a non-profit community organization established to develop and operate the Spring Grove Arboretum & Community Park in Catonsville, Maryland. The Arboretum is envisioned as a 50+ acre urban park to provide recreational open space including: forest preserves, riparian stream buffers, wetlands, specimen trees, ornamental gardens, community athletic fields, hike/bike paths, an outdoor amphitheater, and outdoor sculpture and other arts.

The leasing of State property is a matter-of-fact activity of the Maryland Department of General Services (DGS). The 400-acre Adkins Arboretum at the Tuckahoe State Park is an example of a long term lease and public-private partnership. Most of the 50+ acres proposed for the Spring Grove Arboretum lease are open spaces that are environmentally sensitive forests, wetlands, steep slopes and riparian stream buffers. The lease will include an open-ended timetable established by DHMH for tenant use and management of the open space areas and three occupied DHMH buildings. This Plan proposes the eventual demolition of the Dayhoff and White buildings and site redevelopment as athletic fields. The historic superintendent’s residence/offices is proposed for renovation and use as the Arboretum office and Environmental Education Center.

An Organizational Structure is in place headed by a twenty member Board of Directors, Executive Director, CFO, Design Engineering Group, Operations Maintenance Group and Community Outreach Group. All Board and group positions are professional community volunteers. Current community outreach activities include the Catonsville Tree Canopy Projectthat has planted and maintained over 500 street trees in Catonsville, and student design projects at CCBC and AACC.

The financial strategy of this Arboretum is “No facility will be constructed, or program initiated until full funding for the construction, operation, or program is in place or pledged”. This approach will ensure the initial and the long term viability of the Arboretum. For example, the Arboretum will welcome a garden club donation to plant and maintain a formal rose garden, but when funding ends, the site will be re-purposed. The construction of a $4 million dollar amphitheatre will wait until major sponsor funding of construction is pledged and a viable business O/M plan is developed.

The Arboretum does not need start-up funding. Most of the site is a natural forest – it is already an Arboretum. A core group of design, engineering, planning, and financial professional volunteers and students are already working on the specifications for various projects. Funding availability will dictate when any of these project designs will be implemented.

The site includes the forested buffer of the headwaters of the west branch of Herbert Run, a tributary of the Patapsco River. In 2015, the proposed Arboretum site was included in the program area of the “Patapsco Valley Heritage Greenway”. The west branch of Herbert Run is a perennial stream with a total watershed area of 200+ acres. In 2015, as an educational outreach project of the Arboretum, CCBC students used geo-spatial analysis tools to determine the storm water runoff expected from the stream headwaters. However, the stream watersheds were too small to apply standard stormwater equations, so these students created a mathematical model to calculate the stormwater runoff from these micro-watersheds. This project won a Maryland geo-spatial competition and the micro-watershed stormwater model was journal published in 2016. The Arboretum will include a first ever “Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Demonstration Area”. Century Engineering and Floura Teeter, LLA will support this partnership initiative with DHMH and other State and County environmental agencies.

A natural amphitheatre is proposed that will accommodate a stage and lawn seating for 2,000. In 2015, AACC Architecture students created 3-D models and site plans for an amphitheatre and stage on the Arboretum site. These student designs were viewed by over 200 Catonsville library patrons during a January 2016 show. Critical comments and judging of best design was provided by 75 area residents at the show. This $4 million dollar project will move forward when major corporate sponsors are found.

Three athletic fields will be a very significant community park feature of the Arboretum. The total field area provided will be the equivalent of five regulation soccer fields with fringe parking available at each field. In 2015, the State transferred one of the three athletic field areas to Baltimore County. The County FY2015-16 budget includes $2 million for construction of two field on this site.

A paved hike-bike trail is planned adjacent to Herbert Run. The proposed trail will run from the CRT Short Line Trail at Wade Avenue south east to a trail head at Paradise Avenue and Wilkens Avenue. This trail route will provide a pedestrian link from the UMBC campus to the Catonsville business district via the CRT Short Line Trail. There are future opportunities to continue this trail through the UMBC campus and along Herbert Run to the Patapsco River at Elkridge Landing. The Herbert Run trail also provides a CRT Short Line route option to cross I-695 at the Wilkens Avenue underpass.

Open spaces are planned for specimen trees, gardens and sculptures. These features may be added as donor funding is made available for specific features. In 2016, an AACC Landscape Architecture class will provide detailed landscape plans for the area in front of and adjacent to the Environmental Education Center.

The “Spring Grove Bark Park” will be the first operational facility of the Arboretum with funding now well underway and a temporary site available. A CCBC student design for the fenced dog area and people gazebo is expected in spring 2017.

Since 2011, the Catonsville Tree Canopy Project has coordinated the planting of over 500 street trees by community volunteers with the support of major corporate grant funding. This CRPC Program is an Outreach Program of the Arboretum. In 2016, the Canopy project will facilitate the development of a Community Tree “App” by CCBC students. In 2014, CCBC students began work on the geo-spatial data platform establishing tree locations on the CCBC-C campus and nearby community. In 2016, the 500 street trees planted by community volunteers will be added. Also, in 2016, CCBC students will develop a beta application that will provide iPhone and Android access to these tree data platforms and provide the user with a “Drive through Arboretum” of community trees. These student-developed applications will also provide the platform for future Arboretum facility maps, self guided walking tours and plant location guides.