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Southern Baltimore & Northern Anne Arundel County Community Environmental Partnership

Community Partnership for Environmental Protection
Working Together to Improve our Communities

On May 3, 1996, the residents, businesses, and organizations of five Baltimore neighborhoods joined with local, state, and federal governments in the Community Environmental Partnership to begin a new effort to find ways to improve the local environment and economy. The five neighborhoods in the Partnership, with a combined population of thirty thousand, are located in southern Baltimore and northern Anne Arundel County. These neighborhoods have a broad range of environmental and economic concerns, including concerns that arise from the concentration of industrial, waste treatment, and brownfields sites that surround the area. The area has great environmental assets and economic potential as well. The neighborhoods border the Chesapeake Bay and are the site for a new Eco-industrial park, a major redevelopment effort that has the potential to attract new jobs. In this context, the Partnership set out to take a comprehensive look at the local economy and environment and build consensus around a plan for action. EPA provided a small capacity building grant to help the Partnership get started.

The Community Environmental Partnership started as a pilot for the new community-based approach to environmental protection and economic development. This new approach is an effort to address environmental issues from the perspective of the neighborhood. It allows for the consideration of a detailed level of information often missed when policy is made at the national or state level. It incorporates the local community's knowledge and makes it possible to begin addressing cumulative effects from multiple sources. The community-based approach changes the roles of the community and government: It empowers the community to take the lead in the decisions affecting their environment and it puts government in the role of an advisor, providing the information and technical assistance not available in the community. Building consensus at the local level also makes it possible to unite the community around voluntary pollution prevention approaches that can go beyond current statutory requirements.

At the start of this effort, the partners agreed on a plan for work with the following four goals:

  • Build the long-term capacity of the community, including residents and businesses, to take responsibility for their environment and economy
  • Develop a comprehensive picture of the local environment and economy and an action agenda based on the needs and wants of the community
  • Build consensus in the partnership for the implementation of an action plan that makes a difference in the local environment and economy
  • Encourage and support sustainable economic development in the community

Following the initial partnership building, the Community Environmental Partnership held its first large public meeting on July 31, 1996 in a local church. At this opening meeting, community residents and businesses voted to set the priorities for the partnership. Based on this vote, the partnership organized working committees to address the top concerns of the community. Five committees -- Air Quality, Surface Water and Natural resources, Human Health, Trash/Illegal Dumping/Abandoned Housing, and Economic Development-- were formed and began work in September, 1996.

These committees, with resident, business, and government representatives on each committee, worked together for nine months to get a better understanding of the local environment and economy and develop recommendations. During the course of their work, committees organized background education, collected information, and investigated possible solutions. Results of the committee work were presented to the community at a second large public meeting on April 30, 1997.

The partnership committees proved to be an effective means for getting things done. By harnessing the voluntary energy in the community and pooling resources from all the government partners, the committees managed to find the information to answer questions that the community has had for many years. Highlights of committee accomplishments include:

  • the first comprehensive screening of the cumulative concentration of air toxics from all the industrial and city facilities in and around the neighborhoods
  • a survey of all parks and a plan for a major restoration of the Masonville Cove area, reestablishing the community's link to the Chesapeake Bay
  • a first-for-Maryland survey of cancer incidence at the neighborhood level

In addition to the committee work, the Partnership opened a storefront office to provide meeting space and a center for Partnership activities. A regular newsletter was published to keep everyone up to date on Partnership activities.

Based on the results and recommendations from the committee work, the Partnership focused on taking action to implement the recommendations of its committees. In October, 1997, the Partnership brought the community together for a major clean up of a community park and the start of the Masonville Cove restoration project. Based on the air screening analysis, the Air Committee began work with local facilities on pollution prevention. In addition, the Health Committee began a series of asthma workshops in area schools.

With less than three years of work, the Community Environmental Partnership made some solid accomplishments. The capacity of the community to address its concerns has been improved dramatically through the educational and organizational work. The Partnership storefront office served as a focus for community meetings and activities. A strong network in the community has been built and good working relationships established with participating governments. The restoration project for the Masonville Cove area has strengthened the community link to the Chesapeake Bay, and an effective means to address household health and environmental concerns has been established. All this is a good beginning for the Partnership, but real improvement will require a sustained effort for many years.

For additional information on the work of the Baltimore Partnership, contact:

    Cathy Fehrenbacher
    Community Assistance Technical Team
    USEPA/Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics

    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (7406)
    Washington, D.C. 20460
    Telephone: (202) 564-8551
    Fax: (202) 564-8892
    email: fehrenbacher.cathy@epa.gov

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