Big doings are afoot at Contee-Parago Park

SavATree gives the Willow Oaks in Contee-Parago Park a much-needed pruning from top to bottom.

With the help of major grants as well as generous donations from neighbors, the Friends of Contee-Parago Park have been able to implement several major parts of the park renovation this spring.

In March, SavATree Tree Service of Silver Spring performed much-needed pruning of the five magnificent willow oak trees that frame the park. Dead limbs were removed, and the entire canopy was raised to about 20 feet above ground level to improve visibility into the park and to allow more sunlight to filter down to plantings.

SavATree contributed two days of labor to this project, and the remainder was funded through a Baltimore National Heritage Area Neighborhood Placemaking Grant. That grant will also be helping to fund new signage that will be installed in the park later this summer.

Contee-Parago Park is at the southern end of Bolton Street, bounded by Dolphin Lane, Bolton Street and Dolphin Street.

In May, Blue Water Baltimore removed the largely defunct fountain on the east side of the park, as well as several sections of concrete around the willow oak trees. This work was funded by an $18,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation bundled together with several other stormwater mitigation projects in the city under the aegis of the Baltimore Environmental Equity Partnership.

Native species plantings (Virginia Sweetspire, left, and Smooth Hydrangea, flowering) on the south side of Contee-Parago Park along Dolphin Street.

The fountain and concrete removal will keep thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff out of the bay and will also direct more water to the trees and other plantings. The fountain itself will be replaced by a new garden featuring large “conversation boulders” in an informal seating area, shade plantings and signage explaining the history of the park.

You may have also noticed new plantings installed by volunteers last fall, including more than 70 percent native species such as Amsonia tabernamontae (Bluestar), Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire), and Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea). They have taken root and are thriving along the south side of the circular brick walls on the south side of the park.

The innovative park design, which was created by the DC-MD-VA chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) through a partnership with the Neighborhood Design Center, has been featured at the national meeting of Garden Clubs of America and in the national APLD newsletter.

Additional plantings will be installed when it cools off in the fall. The largest section of the circular brick wall will also be removed, as it is in a state of near-collapse and a longtime target of graffiti artists. A footer wall of under 1 foot will be retained to frame the space and plantings will be installed on either side to create a “natural wall” around that section. New brick piers will be installed on either side of the steps entering the eastern section of the park. Salvaged brick from the wall demolition will be used, where possible, for the new piers and footer wall.

The Friends of Contee-Parago Park are continuing to accept donations for this last stage of the renovation. You can send or drop off checks at 1203 Bolton St., made out to the “Bolton Hill Community Association” with “Contee-Parago Park” in the memo line, or donate through GoFundMe. All contributions to the project through GoFundMe are automatically deposited into the park’s account line with the Bolton Hill Community Association.

–Jean Lee Cole