Last summer it was announced that the Druid Lake Reservoir was going to be completely overhauled and revamped. Two storage water tanks will be buried under the lake in order for the city to comply with the 2006 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that require cities to create large, open reservoirs.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) had two options: cover them entirely or put extra chemicals into the water before pumping it out to the city. The director of DPW Rudy Chow chose the former.
“The tanks will preserve better water quality and lessen the required chemicals to keep the water fresh,” he said. “All this is good for the health of our citizens here in Baltimore.”
DPW recently released more details about the renovation and the scope of the project is unique. After talking with surrounding communities, the department opted to build tanks at the park, rather than in the nearby neighborhood, in order to minimize disruptions. By building a temporary dam across the reservoir, it would divide the lake into two sections, one that would remain filled with drinking water and the other that would be emptied to make space for the tanks. Draining part of the lake, instead of excavating new holes, significantly reduced the amount of time the project would take.
“When we faced the federal mandate, we were determined to get the neighbors, and those who advocate for our parks, involved in the process,” Chow said. “By doing this, we are making the park stronger and making the lake accessible to our citizens.”
The entire venture is projected to be completed by March 2022 and will cost about $140 million—paid for by the increasing bills of Baltimore’s water customers. But Mayor Catherine Pugh, who frequently jogs around the lake, says that this will all be worthwhile in the end.
“The lake will be a little bit smaller when the project is completed, but it will be well worth it,” she said in an email. “This is going to be a very, very beautiful sight.”
The decreased lake size will provide more green space with an additional 14 acres in Druid Hill Park. This will include upgraded lighting, a wider promenade, a new path for cyclists, and an amphitheater. The remainder of the 146-year-old reservoir will be available for recreational activities such as fishing and kayaking.
The current lake was completed in 1871 and included the largest earthen dam in the country at that time—119 feet high—designed to hold one billion gallons of water. The new tanks will only hold 54 million gallons of water with new pipes connecting the existing system in place.
This same model was also used for nearby projects in Towson, Lake Montebello, and Pikesville. Guilford Reservoir is currently under construction and Lake Ashburton, the final project, is underway.
The DPW doesn’t plan to turn over the project to the parks department until they reach the end of construction in the spring of 2022. In the meantime, visitors will see nothing more than bulldozers and a lot of dirt.
“We realize that this is a big project at a very important location,” Chow said. “Druid Hill Park is in many ways not just the heart of the communities that surround it, but also the heart of Baltimore.”