Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2016 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Buckley, Geoffrey
Co-Authors: Christopher G. Boone and J. Morgan Grove

Abstract: Asphalt was becoming an integral part of the urban American landscape by the end of the nineteenth century. Not only was it emerging as the preferred alternative for street paving, its promoters were endorsing it for other purposes as well. Although Baltimore was not in the vanguard when it came to adopting asphalt for road surfaces, it soon followed the trend. Like other cities, it too found other applications for this versatile petroleum product, including the paving of playgrounds and schoolyards. Despite low maintenance costs, widespread use of asphalt as a recreational surface started to meet resistance in Baltimore during the 1960s. Fifty years later, stringent storm-water runoff requirements are causing city officials to rethink how they deploy asphalt in an urban setting. In an effort to meet these new requirements, while at the same time improve recreational opportunities for school children, an alliance of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private developers has developed a strategy to remove asphalt from schoolyards—one that may serve as a model for other cities facing financial and sustainability challenges similar to those of Baltimore.