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The Best Backyard in Baltimore
Baltimore's beating heart is renewed after decades of neglect.
By Peter Harnik

Can a park save a neighborhood? For conservationists and many landscape architects the answer is an obvious yes. "Great parks make great cities" and "all great cities have great parks" are two of the guiding mantras of the burgeoning city park movement. For people who treasure Henry Thoreau and John Muir, it seems indisputable that trees, flowers, and fields bring softness, greenery, and value to an urban community—just look at the genteel neighborhoods surrounding such greenswards as New York's Gramercy Park, Atlanta's Ainsley Park, New Orleans's Audubon Park, and Denver's Washington Park.

Not all urban experts agree. To Jane Jacobs, influential author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, parks too often break up a city's intricate (and economically necessary) fabric of walkable destinations, become uncontrollable no-man's-lands, or create "border vacuums" that lead to urban blight. This is the charge Jacobs leveled in her 1969 book:

Conventionally, neighborhood parks or parklike open spaces are considered boons conferred on the deprived populations of cities. Let us turn this thought around, and consider city parks deprived places that need the boon of life and appreciation conferred on them. This is more nearly in accord with reality, for people do confer use on parks and make them successes—or else withhold use and doom parks to rejection and failure.

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