The Legacy Of Baker Park! Duplicate It!

Kai Hagen

August 22, 2002

One recent Sunday evening, my family joined more than a thousand other
people at one of the weekly summer concerts in Baker Park. It was a lovely
evening. A not-too-hot end to another hot and hazy August day.

We don't make it every week, but we try to go fairly often. And so do a lot
of other folks from nearby town and country.

Most of the time, we don't know or care what band will be playing, or what
sort of music they play. More often than not, they are pretty good.
Sometimes outstanding. But the truth is that the music is just a small part
of the reason for being there.

It's the people and the setting. Or is it the setting and the people?

Either way. The combination works.

It may lack the grand architecture and formality and history of the Plaza
Mayor at the heart of Salamanca, Spain. But the basic ingredients are the
same, at least on Sunday evenings. In Salamanca, in the late afternoon and
evening, the plaza fills with families and couples and groups of teenagers,
and everyone else, it seems. They stroll and sit, and meet and greet. They
are at once the audience and the show.

Throughout the summer, every Sunday, in our own way, it is much the same in
Baker Park. It isn't the number of people that makes it so appealing, but
rather the diversity of people. The bands provide the musical score for a
show put on by the people of Frederick.

Many sit in the seats by the bandshell. Many more sit on blankets and
folding chairs all around. The large playground becomes a bustle of kids
swinging and sliding and spinning. People line up for hot dogs and pretzels
and lemonade. The expansive backdrop of green is enlivened by people riding
bikes and running with dogs, tossing frisbees and footballs, playing tennis
and tee ball.

It's a living, modern rendering of a Norman Rockwell painting, regularly
scheduled in Frederick's version of New York's Central Park.

Throughout the rest of the year, the same park provides an inviting place
for the annual Christmas Concert, the Children's Festival, a variety of
other festivals and our Fourth of July celebration. People walk and bike and
skate in and around the park. Kids fish in Culler Lake or feed ducks along
Carroll Creek. There is a picnic area, two playgrounds, a gazebo, a popular
public pool, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, and more.

The park is also home to the rose garden, the Joseph Dill Baker Carillon, a
community center and the historic Schifferstadt house and gardens and
Architectural Museum.

All this and more on just forty-four green acres which wind through pleasant
neighborhoods along Carroll Creek to the edge of the historic district, just
a few blocks from the center of town.

It is hard to imagine Frederick without Baker Park.

I certainly don't want to.

In a time when some urban neighborhoods have to form organized groups and
raise money to get basic improvements to small local parks, we are fortunate
to have such a space. In a time when many teenagers choose to hang out in
large, private indoor malls, it is refreshing to enjoy such an outstanding

A public space.

In a time when we fight over Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances, to
ensure that our rapidly growing population will be served by adequate roads,
schools, parks, water and sewer systems, it is worth considering the real
wisdom and value of thoughtfully investing in public facilities and services
that are more than merely adequate.

Baker Park is a living legacy to the foresight of citizens and city leaders
generations ago.

I am grateful.

This week, a planning consultant has completed a report identifying key
issues for long-term planning in Frederick. City officials hope the report
will encourage residents to participate in the planning process, which will
rewrite the comprehensive plan and development ordinances, and affect the
city for years to come.

One of the priority issues is how many parks the city needs. And what kind
of parks they will be.

Other key issues include Frederick's role in the region, how much the city
will and should grow, water for new businesses and homes, the need for
affordable housing, and the quality of residential, commercial and
industrial development.

Residents are invited to discuss the report and tell city officials their
personal priorities for city planning at the Frederick Board of Aldermen's 2
p.m. workshop September 4 at City Hall. Residents also can meet with
Planning Department staff at a special forum September 18 at 7 p.m. at City
Hall. (For more information, contact the Planning Department at

It is also time to consider the creation of a much more than merely adequate
regional county park somewhere near the City of Frederick. Such a park,
which could be along the Monocacy River or between Frederick and the
mountains, could include a vibrant mix of natural, recreational, social and
cultural amenities.

Good land for such a public space is only going to get more scarce, more
expensive and farther out of town. This is the time to begin thinking and
discussing and planning.

It could be our legacy.

To get in touch, e-mail Kai Hagen at