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Old Bethlehem Steel Site Near Baltimore to Become New Sparrows Point Park

Thu August 17, 2023 - Northeast Edition #19
Baltimore County Government


Sparrows Point Park will be Baltimore County’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-designed park project. (Baltimore County Government photo)
Sparrows Point Park will be Baltimore County’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-designed park project. (Baltimore County Government photo)

A portion of the now-defunct Bethlehem Steel Mill property in southeast Baltimore County, Md.'s Edgemere-Sparrows Point area will soon be transformed into a sustainably designed and accessible 21st-century recreational park.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and officials with the Department of Recreation and Parks joined state and local elected leaders and community members Aug. 11 to break ground for the new Sparrows Point Park in what is seen as a major milestone in filling a longstanding recreational gap in the area.

The nearly 22-acre site will be the first indoor/outdoor recreational space in that part of the county in over two decades.

"The incredible new Sparrows Point Park will provide a cutting-edge selection of recreational opportunities for residents of all ages — from playing fields and indoor gyms to a new playground and kayak launch — that will better connect families in eastern Baltimore County and beyond," Olszewski said at the construction kickoff. "We are thrilled that this vibrant neighborhood hub will highlight Baltimore County's rich industrial and cultural history while also ensuring families can make exciting new memories for generations to come."

In his remarks, he also thanked Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA) for its support, and county recreation and parks officials "for their commitment to providing sustainable recreation opportunities in every neighborhood."

TPA is a Sparrows Point-based real estate developer working to repurpose the area on a peninsula just east of the Patapsco River. During its heyday in the mid-20th century, the area was world-renowned for its steelmaking and shipbuilding output.

As a result of the developer's ownership of the site of the former Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard and steel mill, the entire property has been renamed Tradepoint Atlantic. Now, TPA has embarked on a revitalization program to clean up the environment and make the property one of the largest ports on the East Coast.

Modern Park With Nod to Past

Sparrows Point Park is designed to be Baltimore County's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-designed park project.

Among its features are:

  • A 16,000-sq.-ft. community center with a double court gymnasium.
  • A 10,000-sq.-ft. nautical-themed playground with a boat-climbing structure.
  • Two community-accessible activity rooms and a concessions area.
  • A full-size synthetic turf field with LED lighting.
  • An ADA-accessible fishing pier and kayak launch.
  • A scenic walking path.

"While we are always excited to break ground on an innovative new project, as a lifelong southeast Baltimore County resident, this project holds a special significance for me," said Bob Smith, director of the county's Recreation and Parks Department.

"This project presents a unique opportunity to provide a quality recreation amenity aimed at servicing one of our older communities while fostering synergy with one of the newest economic drivers in the region.

"Sparrows Point Park represents the department's continued focus on providing the best recreation opportunities to our residents and visitors throughout Baltimore County," he added.

Shortly after taking office in December 2018, Olszewski worked with TPA to adjust a previously negotiated public infrastructure agreement to provide the county with a major parcel of accessible land for a new public park.

Baltimore County officials and TPA later selected the water-view site located at Wharf Road, acreage which the developer donated to the municipality in 2022.

The park design will also emphasize local environmental preservation, with nearly half of the waterfront site dedicated to maintaining the natural beauty of the area, including significant forest tracts and protective buffers along wetlands and the shoreline.

Due to its location on part of what was once one of the world's largest industrial sites, Sparrows Point Park will pay homage to Bethlehem Steel's production and cultural heritage. The integration of a historic beam as part of the park's signage will be a reminder of the manufacturer's vital role in the region's history.

"Today's groundbreaking fulfills a commitment to the community to provide open space and increase recreational opportunities for the Edgemere-Sparrows Point community," Aaron Tomarchio, TPA's executive vice president of corporate affairs, told the groundbreaking's assembled guests. "We are especially thrilled that this new park will also honor and help preserve the storied legacy of the former Sparrows Point Steel Mill and the men and women who worked here."

To support the approximately $25 million project, Baltimore County has secured $10 million in grant funding, including $3 million in federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Project monies, $3 million from the state of Maryland and $4 million in Maryland Program Open Space funding.

Sparrows Point Park is expected to be completed in late 2024.




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