Baltimore pocket parks make big impacts in small spaces

History behind two of Baltimore's 'Pocket Parks'

Getting a tour of some of Baltimore's Pocket Parks, small parks in communities managed by residents. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore pocket parks make big impacts in small spaces

As Printed in The Baltimore Sun


Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, 67, grew tired of looking at a desolate lot filled with trash and old mattresses in his Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. The longtime civil rights leader proposed to make a change — to transform the area into a park and playground.

“We could tell our community children needed something more than to walk seven to eight blocks to get to a park,” Cheatham said.

With the help of city and state funds, Cheatham and residents planted garden plots and cherry blossom trees. They constructed chess tables, a stage and swing sets, and a Little Free Book Library. In April, after nearly a year of hard work, they opened the Easterwood/Sandtown Park and Playground, one of the city’s newest pocket parks, or “parkettes” — small, community-managed green spaces that operate as places of recreation and community.

Baltimore has more than 270 green spaces, many of which qualify as pocket parks, according to the nonprofit Baltimore Green Space, which helps preserve such spaces. The organization has seen increased interest in green spaces and pocket parks in the last 10 years, said the program’s director, Katie Lautar, but they’re not a new phenomenon. Residents — especially those in African-American communities — have been quietly managing green spaces in their neighborhoods for longer than any of us could imagine, she said.