Town of Masonville founded
Masonville is home to a few hundred residents
Baltimore's economy and population are booming; over 859,000 people live in Baltimore
Increased industry has pushed out Masonville community residents
Patapsco River is heavily polluted due to industry and large populations
Masonville is evaluated as a placement site for dredged material
Starting in this year, hearings and meetings are held to discuss dredged material placement and restoration
Cleanup and restoration begin at Masonville Cove
Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center opens
Masonville Cove is designated the nation's first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership
Captain Trash Wheel is installed at Masonville Cove
EARLY COMMUNITY & GROWTH
Masonville began as a small community located at the south-west side of Baltimore, Maryland. At the end of the 1800s, Masonville was a town with a few homes and several businesses that served the local community.
The town experienced new prosperity and growth when railroad lines were laid running through Masonville to industries in nearby Brooklyn and Curtis Bay. Masonville and its surrounding neighborhoods grew as Baltimore's economy boomed and new immigrants arrived. Thriving operations at the Port of Baltimore, railroads, and factories were key in driving and supporting this new growth.
However, as the economy boomed, land along the railroad became more valuable to industry. And as industry encroached, the people living in Masonville began to leave. By the 1950s, Masonville had been converted from a community to an industrial area.
CONSEQUENCES OF CHANGE
While a benefit to the economy and human communities, the impact of industrial operations and large human populations took its toll on the Patapsco River. By the mid-1960s the river was effectively lifeless due to pollution; open sewers, foam from detergents, and algae blooms fed by excess fertilizers running into the river had polluted the water to the point that almost nothing lived in it.
Change also struck at Baltimore's staple industries. With no central command, port facilities began to deteriorate. This changed in 1956 when the Maryland Port Authority (now the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration) was created. However, when the economy contracted it caused industries to close, leaving behind pollution and empty lots. Highways and rail lines still cut Masonville off from neighboring communities.
Meanwhile, the Cove area became a dumping ground for industry and nearby residents. The area became littered with tires, steel, concrete, and other debris.
A TURNING POINT
Although the town of Masonville had disappeared as industry advanced into the area, Masonville Cove remained a home for many species of wildlife. With habitat loss due to human development an increasingly common problem for wildlife throughout the Atlantic region, Masonville became an important habitat and resting stop for wildlife (especially migratory birds). Local environmentalists advocated to preserve the area for its natural beauty and importance in the regional ecosystem.
In 2002, the Maryland Port Administration at the Port of Baltimore pulled together a group of volunteers from the community and civic organizations, non-profit organizations, environmental interest groups, and local and state representatives to form the Baltimore Harbor Team. This team makes recommendations on potential placement options for dredged material (sediment removed from shipping channels to ensure safe passage for ships with the deepest drafts). The Harbor Team proposed a study of the Masonville site, a preferred option. In 2004, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port offered to restore and preserve Masonville Cove and to construct an education center as a part of a harbor dredging project.
Throughout 2005-2006, public hearings and community meetings were held to review an environmental impact statement for the proposed project, and to receive feedback about future environmental and community enhancements from the surrounding community. Partnerships with the community continue today through the operation of the Masonville Citizens Advisory Committee. Meetings—which are open to the public—are held twice a year.
RESTORATION & RENEWAL
Restoration of Masonville Cove began in 2007. The early years saw the removal of derelict vessels from the water and more than 61,000 tons of trash and debris, some of it dating back to the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. The Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center opened in 2009 and today houses staff from the Living Classrooms Foundation, which provides environmental education experiences for area students.
Although the changes at Masonville Cove are incredible, the work of restoring and enhancing Masonville Cove continues to this day. Volunteers continue to make a difference at the Cove by participating in shoreline cleanups, and in 2018 Captain Trash Wheel arrived at Masonville Cove to help keep litter out of the Patapsco River.
Today Masonville Cove is home to the nation's first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, over 251 bird species (including Baltimore City's only pair of nesting bald eagles), and one world-class trash-eating machine. It serves an important role in education, community engagement, and outdoor recreation.