Jones Falls Celebration Deemed Huge Success
New scenic route, longer walks, expanded bike routes and revamped festival add to event

by Eileen Gillan
        The third annual Jones Falls Valley Celebration on September 16 and 17 was the most successful yet, drawing thousands more people than in the previous two years and offering more activities to enjoy the beauty of the Jones Falls and surrounding valley.

       The Jones Falls, the river that runs beneath the JFX, is one of Baltimore’s least known and least appreciated treasures. The Jones Falls Valley Celebration was created in 1998 to increase appreciation for this valuable resource and to raise awareness of the many outdoor recreational opportunities along the river’s banks.

       “Baltimore is full of wonderful places such as parks, stream valleys and greenways. The Jones Falls Valley Celebration provides people with the opportunity to experience these resources in a new and exciting way,” said Jackie Carrera, chair of the celebration. “The success of the event illustrates community support for the restoration of the stream valley from individuals, community organizations and community partners.”

       Jones Falls Valley Celebration 2000 began on Saturday, Sept. 16, when hundreds of canoers and kayakers set off from Lake Roland at 9 a.m. Most of the boaters ended their trip down the river at Meadow Mill. The less experienced kayakers left the river at Poly Western High School, and the more experienced kayakers continued past Meadow Mill to go over the Round Falls. Watching the kayakers shoot the falls was an unforgettable experience for the people who sat on the bulkhead along the river overlooking the falls.

       On Sunday morning, the JFX was closed to automobile traffic to allow runners, walkers, bicyclists and others to explore the expressway and look down on the river. About 450 runners ran in the Jones Falls 8K Express, a race down the JFX from Northern Parkway to Fayette Street. The Jones Falls 8K Express was designated the 2000 Maryland State Road Runners Club of America 8K Championship Race.

       Following the race, thousands of people walked, ran, rode bicycles and unicycles, pushed babies in strollers, pulled children in little red wagons, and walked their dogs down the expressway.

       For the first time, kinesthetic sculptures from the American Visionary Arts Museum, joined by 30 costumed bicyclists, led the way to officially start the JFX Walk and Bike at 9 a.m. At noon, antique cars and an electric car drove up the JFX from Fayette Street to signal people to exit the expressway so it could be reopened to traffic.

       The new JFX Walk and Bike route this year, a loop that began and ended at the Mt. Royal Street lot next to the Lyric Theatre in midtown Baltimore, was designed to give people the opportunity to see the Jones Falls both from above, on the JFX, and right alongside the river, along scenic Falls Road.

       In addition to the JFX Walk and Bike, the Baltimore Walking Club organized 5K and 10K walks and the Baltimore Bicycle Advisory Committee distributed directions for five-, seven-and-a-half-, and 18-mile bike routes. All of the walking and biking routes included a section of the JFX and Falls Road as well as part of the surrounding neighborhood.

       No matter how far people walked or biked, though, everyone eventually ended up at the celebration festival, which doubled in size this year and moved to Falls Road in front of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. More than 60 community organizations and environmental groups displayed their programs at the festival, and thousands of people took advantage of the beautiful day to browse the exhibits, pick up maps for nearby nature walks, sign up for rock climbing, enjoy the live music and take five-cent trolley rides at the streetcar museum. Inside the streetcar museum, festival participants had the opportunity to see the first draft of the Jones Falls Master Plan.

       Three art exhibits inspired by the beauty of the Jones Falls and organized by volunteers continue through mid-October. One is a children’s art exhibit at Meadow Mill Athletic Club on Clipper Mill Road in Hampden. A photography exhibition is on display at Gomez Gallery in Meadow Mill and a third art exhibition inspired by the Jones Falls may be seen at Bibelot in Cross Keys. For details, call 410-216-3515.

       The Jones Falls Valley Celebration was organized by the Jones Falls Watershed Association, Greater Homewood Community Corp., Midtown Community Benefits District, and Parks and People Foundation and its Revitalizing Baltimore project. The event was made possible by the Baltimore City Departments of Planning, Public Works, Recreation and Parks; Baltimore Bicycle Advisory Committee; Baltimore Streetcar Museum; Baltimore Walking Club; Greater Baltimore Canoe Club; Maryland Department of Natural Resources-Forest Service, and United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service.

       The event was sponsored by Baltimore Community Foundation, Fox 45, Fresh Fields Whole Foods Market, Gilden Advertising, Patuxent Publishing, Sylvan Learning Foundation, University of Maryland Medical System, Yellow Transportation. Supporters: Sinai Hospital, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, and Union Memorial Hospital. Special thanks to TCI Communications of Baltimore, Mayor Martin O’Malley and the Baltimore Office of Promotion.

       Eileen Gillan, an area resident, handled publicity for the festival.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on October 4, 2000.