JFX To Be Closed For Jones Falls Celebration

by Alice Cherbonnier
ONCE A YEAR the public can walk across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now, for perhaps once in a lifetime, the public can bicycle on the Jones Falls Expressway.
     The occasion? The Jones Falls Celebration, set for Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20.
     The event gives the public a chance to see the beauty, and even wildness, of the Jones Falls watershed. “It’s really nice down there,” says Mary Porter, of the Jones Falls Watershed Association, a branch of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation. “We’d like to have more people come out and use the Jones Falls. You can even go canoeing on it.”
     Biking: Those who want to take a bicycle spin on the highway may do so on Sunday, September 20 from 9 a.m. to noon. They should gather on the parking lot of the Poly/Western complex, where they will receive instructions. The expressway’s northbound lanes will be closed off from Cold Spring Lane to the Fayette Street exit. Bikers can go as far south as Charles Street and either return on the JFX or choose to exit and pedal back on Falls Road, which will also be closed. Police officers will be blocking the expressway’s access ramps from from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
     “We’re hoping for about a thousand bicyclists,” said Ms. Porter. The arrangements to close off the expressway were complex. “We put in for a permit in May,” she said, “and just found out we could do it in mid-August.”
     Suppose it rains? “Then we’ll be biking in the rain,” said Ms. Porter.
     Stream Restoration: The celebration will begin at noon on Saturday, when volunteers gather at the parking lot at Remington Avenue and Wyman Park Drive to take part in a stream restoration project along the Jones Falls.
     Free Concert: Then there will be a concert from 4 to 6 p.m. by the Trinidad & Tobago Steel Band at the Wyman Park Arch Bridge. Bring a rug, blanket or folding chair.
     Canoeing: On Sunday, in addition to the JFX biking event, there will be canoeing on the Jones Falls from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring a canoe and paddle from Lake Avenue (near Robert E. Lee Park) to Union Avenue in Hampden; register for this event with Save Our Streams; call 969-0084. Ms. Porter says it’s not safe to canoe farther south: “There are big rocks and waterfalls.”
     Rock Climbing: There will also be rock climbing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., sponsored by Outward Bound. Call 889-7927 for details and to pre-register.
     Guided Walks: Also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be guided walks along the Jones Falls and one of its connecting streams, Stony Run. The public can see close-up the historic mills, geology, and waterfalls--including the beautiful Circle Falls. Meet at the Greenmount School, 501 West 30th Street.
     Another Concert: The weekend’s events will be capped off with a Caribbean concert by Mambo Combo from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Greenmount School field.
     All activities are free. Expenses of the festival will be covered by grants from the Parks & People Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Abell Foundation, and others.
     The Greenway: The celebration will be a kick-off for the beginning of construction of the Jones Falls Greenway, the first leg of what organizers hope will become a permanent recreational parkland strip along the Jones Falls from the Harbor on the south end to Robert E. Lee Park to the north. The first leg, funded by a federal $1.3 million ISTEA transportation grant, will extend the Greenway to Druid Hill Park. “The cost is so high because it will need a couple of bridges,” explained Ms. Porter.
     Funding for the next phase is being sought, and organizers are hopeful. If the Light Rail is double-tracked as proposed, they believe a bike trail alongside the track will also be feasible.
     Long-Term Helpers: The Jones Falls clean-up has been an ongoing project, involving volunteer crews of 25 to 30 people on weekends. In all, about 100 regular volunteers have been involved, according to Dr. Michael Beer, co-chair of the Jones Falls Watershed Association.
     For the past three years, freshmen from Loyola College and Johns Hopkins University have spent part of their orientation period cleaning up the waterway.

For information about the Jones Falls Celebration, or to get involved in clean-up efforts, call Ms. Porter at 889-7927.

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This story was published on Sep. 2, 1998.