Friends of Baker Park along with Frederick City have undertaken the restoration of the Culler Memorial Bench adjacent to Culler Lake. The memorial bench was originally unveiled in January 1940 following a speech by then Governor Herbert R. O’Conner recognizing Lloyd Culler, the 7-term mayor of Frederick.
The memorial bench had originally held a sundial on one end-pedestal and a water fountain on the other, both of which had long since disappeared. In addition to the City cleaning and repointing the mortar on the bench, Friends of Baker Park solicited design proposals from local artists and metal workers to replace the original sundial.
The chosen design submitted by Charles Crum of Fountainworks Studio was installed on the bench in December and consists of an analemmatic sundial design, which requires a moveable gnomon, thereby offering interactive and educational components to the sundial. The viewer is invited to supply the missing gnomon perhaps by using a nearby stick, pen, or even a finger placed on the sundial, casting a shadow towards the time of day. The design fosters awareness of the motion of the sun and earth through the seasons and is uniquely calibrated for the sundial’s longitude and latitude. A short verse on the face of the sundial instructs the viewer on how to use the sundial.
To use this clock from long ago a finger points the way
Touch today’s month and the shadow
reveals the time of day
Educational lesson plans appropriate for late elementary to early high school students are being written by the artist and Frederick County Public School Educator Charles Crum. They will soon be available for download from the Friends of Baker Park website.
Look for other lesson plans about Baker Park landmarks, water conservation and sustainability coming from Friends of Baker Park in cooperation with Hood College and Visit Frederick.
Earlier this year, the Board of Directors of the Friends of Baker Park meet with the intent of developing a strategic plan. The work done over several work sessions with a grant from Joseph D. Baker Family Fund, Inc., and with the assistance of Greg Powell of Powell Management Resources is critical to the future success of the organization as it will help guide key decisions and provide structure to our ongoing efforts.
One area of significance is marketing and promotion of the organization to meet the larger goal of strengthening the organization through growth of an inclusive base of members, supporters, and users. As we began to look more closely at our existing efforts we identified the need for a new image or brand starting with the logo.
The new logo takes its inspiration from the Culler Lake wedding cake style fountain a prominent feature in Baker Park. It also merges arts and crafts and art deco styling and typography, only fitting given the park was established in 1927. While taking inspiration from the 20s and 30s the new logo has a modern look and feel.
The Board as a whole decided before we create any new marketing pieces, update the website, or expand our social media usage our image needed to become more aligned with the audience we want to attract. “The old logo served us well for a very long time, but the logo will help us attract new people to our cause and gives us new energy as we look to the years ahead,” said Peter Brehm, President of Friends of Baker Park.
Two local institutions have made significant donations in support of the Culler Lake Renaissance. PNC has announced a $10,000 donation in support of Phase II of the Culler Lake Renaissance while The Joseph D. Baker Fund, Inc., contributed $7,000 to this effort. These donations, along with $150,000 in State bond bill money plus matching City funds, will enable work on Phase II to begin as soon as the City of Frederick reviews completed construction drawings and sends these out for bid. The Friends of Baker Park board has designated construction of a Culler Memorial Plaza to be the first component of Phase II efforts.
Work on this project began last year with the refurbishment of the Culler Memorial Bench itself by the City that included repointing the bench’s facing stones, replacing the bench cap with uniform pieces of stone, and the creation and installation of an informational sign about Lloyd Culler and why he is honored with a bench. A local artist is designing and creating a replacement sundial for installation on the bench (see related article). Plans call for installation of a tear-drop plaza around the bench to bring more access and attention to this structure, including installation of a bas relief of the Monocacy watershed showing where Culler Lake and Carroll Creek fit within this region, plus plantings, benches, pavers, and relocation of the interpretive sign.
This phase will also include amenities such as expanding the mixed-use pathways adjacent to the bench to 10’, installing a wider cross walk at the Fleming / West College intersection, adding bypass pathways so that bicyclists can avoid riding over the two boardwalks along the lake’s southern edge. “These generous PNC Joseph D. Baker Fund grants are exciting and will serve as a catalyst for raising the additional funds needed to complete Phase II,” said Culler Lake Renaissance Fundraising Chair Kathy Fay, adding “Both organizations are demonstrating their strong commitment to Baker Park and the City of Frederick, with one result being to make our city a desirable place to live, work, and play.”
With thanks to the several teams of families and individuals who are maintaining flower beds in Baker Park, we will have other opportunities this spring, summer, and fall to help maintain the park. These include:
Food Forest maintenance: We’ll need periodic help to mulch, water, and weed whack around the food forest saplings planted at the bottom of the hill between Schifferstadt and Carroll Creek. The trees and interpretive sign, purchased and installed through generous support from the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek, are an exciting and educational addition to this room in Baker Park.
Urban Forest Management: Urban forests are not natural and suffer from invasive vines (examples: wild grape, hops), bushes (example: bush honeysuckle), and trees (example: Mulberry), each of which deteriorates the health of the forest environment. We’ll undertake team efforts to chop out / pull up / remove these invasive in order to allow the native trees to flourish. The
If you are a community-minded person who loves the smell of soil and rain and finds working in a garden brings a sense of well-being, you may be interested in volunteering to adopt a garden in Baker Park. Friends of Baker Park’s Adopt-a-Garden Program allows members to stake a claim for an area of the park to keep weed-free and beautiful for one year.
Volunteers will be assigned a site on a first come, first-served basis. You may choose from a list of available sites or suggest a site to be kept weed free. To keep the garden sites looking beautiful, it is assumed the gardener will weed the site once or twice a month during the spring, summer, and fall. For maintenance of your site, garden weeders will need to supply their own tools and yard waste bags. Filled yard waste bags can be left next to any trash can for City removal. Garden adopters are not expected to install plantings or spread mulch, though if either is of interest contact Peter Brehm (see below) so that we can coordinate City approval and any needed reimbursement.
If you don’t wish to take on the full responsibility of a garden site, perhaps you would be interested in assisting another gardener at his/her site. Your interest and availability can be matched with another gardener.
GARDEN SITES THAT NEED ADOPTION
- Carillon area: Rhoades garden bed closest to the Culler fountain (already adopted!)
- Carillon area: Rhoades garden bed closest to the Baker Park carillon
- Carillon area: Any section between fountain and carillon – north side
- Carillon area: Any section between fountain and carillon – south side
- Garden near tennis courts (around porta potties) at corner of West Second and College Avenue
- West College Terrace: garden north side of road over bridge
- West College Terrace: garden south side of road over bridge
- Call or email to suggest a site!
To participate in Adopt-a-Garden and request a site — or suggest one of your own – please fill out the volunteer application form and mail it to Friends of Baker Park, PO Box 4146, Frederick, MD 21705. Once we receive your form, someone will be in contact with you.
Save the date and tell your neighbors!
Saturday May 20 & Sunday 21, 2017 | Noon – 5 PM
At Culler Lake in Baker Park, Frederick, MD
Hood College’s Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies (CCWS) and the Friends of Baker Park are excited to announce the NEW 2017 Green Neighbor Festival, scheduled for May 20 & 21! Formerly the Green Neighbor Forum, the 2-day festival will be promoting environmental sustainability and “green” practices to protect land, water, and energy resources. Held in conjunction with Celebrate Frederick’s Behind the Garden Gates Tour, the festival will be located around Baker Park’s Culler Lake and will feature an educational walking tour of the newly restored lake structures, eco-friendly vendors, family-friendly activities, a tree tour, a fish release and more!
Vendor applications are now being accepted: https://secure.hood.edu/GreenNeighborForum/
Sponsorship info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow CCWS on Facebook to stay up to date on developing Green Neighbor Festival activities: https://www.facebook.com/centercoastalwatershedstudies/
Improvements Enhance Water Quality
A thick layer of sediment accumulated over the 76 years since the lake’s construction.
After 5 years of planning and 7 months of messy, muddy work, Culler Lake has a brand new beautiful appearance. The City of Frederick awarded a major contract to Morgan-Keller Inc. to revitalize the cherished park. Work began in February under the direction of Project Manager Doug Gray and Superintendent Todd Sharpe.
Morgan Keller Project Superintendent, Todd Sharpe, mounts banner describing project details.
The first step was to drain the lake. Inflows from Carroll Creek were halted, allowing the lake to drain naturally. Then portable pumps removed standing water and seepage from several active springs in the lake bottom. After filtering, lake water was released into Carroll Creek.
Great care was taken to minimize environmental impact. Water pumped out of the lake was filtered before discharge into Carroll Creek.
The volume of sediment removed from the lake could fill 2 Olympic size swimming pools.
Subcontractor Justice Excavating hauled 1,092 truckloads of sediment from the 76-year old lake bottom. That amounts to 6,552 cubic feet of material, more than the volume of 2 Olympic size swimming pools!
By September, the construction crews departed, leaving a revitalized landmark in their wake. Gone is the rigid depression-era rectangle and its hard concrete rip rap border. In its place, a more pleasing and functional design that will improve storm water management and enhance water quality with mechanical and biological systems.
A new shared use path joins a wide bridge over the newly planted wetlands.
Three aquatic wetlands, bordered by prominent bolder walls dominant the shoreline. The 2 wetlands on the creekside of the lake include gracefully curved bridges. These 10-foot wide spans, constructed of durable tropical Ipe hardwood, tie into the new shared use path that transits the lakeside. They also provide an intimate viewing area of the wetlands. Newly planted aquatic vegetation on the surface, and microorganisms in the gravel base will absorb excess nutrients from the water. Poole Landscaping planted the wetlands and 4 swaths along the shore with native aquatic plants.
On the 2nd Street side near the Skate Hose, a 12-foot diameter concrete disk marks the location of another important component. Called a hydrodynamic separator, this mechanical device pre-treats storm water runoff from the nearby residential area. It screens dirt, grit, and trash before water flows into the wetland behind it. A grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust made purchase and installation of this component possible.
The newly planted wetland can be seen in the foreground as the lake is slowly filling up. The white circular top of the hydrodynamic separator is to the right. Also visible in the lake are 3 of the 5 fish habitats. A small pennant shows the location of a floating fountain and the reconstructed fountain looms in the center of the lake.
The iconic ‘wedding cake” fountain was completely reconstructed. The old fountain was demolished, and its debris repurposed into 5 fish-breeding habitat areas on the lake bottom. The new fountain features an impressive plume of spray that cascades down the sides. Dramatic lighting at the top will illuminate the column of water at night and submerged lighting around the base will cast an enchanting glow. Two smaller floating fountains add additional aeration.
The rubble of the demolished old fountain was converted into fish habitat on the lake bottom. Large pipes provide safe areas for fish.
The new fountain was designed by Clearwater Landscape & Nursery and constructed by Field Enterprises. Substantial donations by Dr. George and Ms. Carolyn Smith and family, Mr.& Ms. Larry Marsh, and other individuals contributed to the fountain’s reconstruction. The Community Foundation of Frederick County supported the purchase of a pump and the conversion of a portion of the Skate House into a mechanical room.
Workers erect framing for the base of the new fountain.
The Culler Lake project has been the beneficiary of significant community support. Notably the Joseph D. Baker Fund, the Delaplaine Foundation, and the Green Walled Garden Club provided generous donations. The Rotary Club of Carroll Creek has identified constructing a pavilion on the lake’s west shore, as their “next big project.” A task that will be incorporated into the next phase of work.
Other improvements include a newly designed retaining wall on the east shore and a wide terracotta-colored cement path along Carroll Creek. Both items were installed by General Concrete who also poured the fountain base structure. Espina Stone crafted the stone veneer around the fountain to match the original material. They also constructed the retaining wall and stone boulder walls.
The project was a true collaborative effort and the work of many hands. The Friends of Baker Park was a catalyst for creating a dramatic new vision for Culler Lake. In 2011, the Culler Lake Renaissance Plan was developed by the DeOcampo Design Collaborative with input from the community. It was the foundation for grant applications to advance the concept. The Chesapeake Bay Trust provided the funds to hire Frederick, Seibert & Associates to develop an overall master plan and construction documents.
The Culler Lake Restoration project received great interest and support from the community and elected officials. Project engineer, Keith Moore, of Frederick, Seibert & Associates explains the new design.
The Culler Lake project benefitted from the strong endorsement of our elected officials. Our state delegation including Galen Clagett, Ron Young, Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young were instrumental in acquiring $350,000 in state funds. Mayor McClement and the Board of Alderman were champions of the idea, allocating nearly $2 million for the project.
City staff including former Deputy Director Roelkey Myers were ardent supporters of the concept. Frederick Public Works Director Zack Kershner, and dedicated City staff including Marc Stachowski, Bob Smith, Tracey Coleman and Kandi Fullerton were instrumental in in reviewing specifications and selecting a contractor for the project. On a day-to-day basis, City Project Manager Ron Wingfield oversaw the work with Chip Stitley and Nicole Harshman inspecting the job site and providing quality assurance.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 the Mayor along with the Friends of Baker Park held a dedication ceremony for the new fountain.
The restoration of Culler Lake is now complete. Our community can take collective pride in this accomplishment. It expanded and modernized the actions of a previous generation. It’s an example of how a local initiative can enhance the quality of life and in a small way, contribute to solving a larger problem, namely improving the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
With the first phase of work behind us, we can look forward to designing additional improvements that will enhance the aesthetic and recreational character of this special place. It’s a tangible legacy to future generations that reflects our conservation heritage.
Overseen by City of Frederick Transportation Planner Tim Davis, the tunnel connector and allied pathways between Baker Park and Waterford Park have been structurally completed, linking the western portion of the shared use path that once stopped in Waterford Park with the eastern portion that ended in Baker Park at Route 15. Completed tasks include:
- Installation of the tunnel under the Route 15 on/off ramp;
- Paving of the asphalt and pervious pavement on the pathways between Route 15 and the tunnel and between the tunnel and the existing pathway in Waterford Park;
- Installation of a bridge over Carrol Creek;
- Insulation of all electrical conduits and tunnel lighting;
- Upgrading of the sidewalk on Rosemont.
Next up, with completion slated to occur by late August, are:
- Lighting along the path;
- Final grading and site repair;
- Fence and railing installation;
- The addition of a guardrail on the on/off ramp;
- Installation of pet waste stations in the area;
- Tree planting;
- Tunnel touchup.
A ribbon cutting is planned once the site work is completed; a tentative opening of August 29 has been announced.
Planner Tim Davis noted, “ this is the single most important link for bicyclist and pedestrians in the City, bringing safety and access for all to entire west and east sides of the City”
Friends of Baker Park President, Peter Brehm, reported that the Friends of Baker Park are enthusiastic about this transportation enhancement. “This bike/pedestrian link between the west and east sides of Frederick will connect neighbors and neighborhoods as well as foster people getting to and taking advantage of Waterford Park, Baker Park, and the Carroll Creek Linear Park,” he stated, adding “Friends of Baker Park is working closely with Tim and City to complete upgrades to the shared use path between Fairview Avenue and West College Terrace in order to optimize biker and walker experience along the complete length of this path.”
By all accounts it was a very big deal. The date was January 7, 1940, and a shivering crowd of 2,000 citizens gathered along West College Terrace to dedicate the newly completed Culler Lake. The Maryland National Guard Band performed the national anthem in the freezing weather as steam wafted from the mouths of the assembled crowd singing along. Even the bitter cold couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Following a speech by Governor Herbert R. O’Conner, 3-year old Charles Culler Rhodes, the grandson of the 7-term Mayor of Frederick, unveiled the bronze plaque. It recognized Culler’s “fifteen years of distinguished and constructive public service.” The highlight of the afternoon was an exhibition by championship skaters Robin Scott and Arlene Smith from Washington, D. C. who performed on the frozen lake. An intriguing photograph of the ceremony shows young Charles Rhodes standing on the bench next to the bronze plaque. In the background is a tall Christmas tree with 2 figures posed beside it. Could they be the professional skaters that performed at the event?
Farther still in the background is Frederick High School under construction. Seventy-six years later in 2016, the scene looks much the same. Construction on a new Frederick High is underway. It seems that FHS and its neighbor are inextricably linked.
Work on Culler Lake began in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, a depression-era program to put unemployed young men to work on public projects. Steam shovels modified the course of Carroll Creek and the WPA men expanded several small spring-fed goldfish ponds into a 3 ½ acre lake we see today. The new water way not only provided recreational opportunities, it also served as a storm water impoundment pond for the expanding residential neighborhood and portions of the Hood College campus.
Many lasting memories center around Culler Lake. Boating and fishing filled the summer months and the town eagerly watched the thermometer in the winter to see if conditions were right for freezing. Once the ice was thick enough, skaters of all ages enjoyed gliding on the ice and whirling around the fountain in the center of the lake. The newspaper even reported a growing concern about overly enthusiastic play of “crack-the-whip” on the ice that resulted in too many injuries.
Over the years the lake has accumulated a thick layer of silt on the bottom from storm water runoff and decades of accumulated duck poo and other natural materials. Street salt and grit along with agricultural runoff from Carroll Creek has added excess phosphorus. This combination of increased sediments as well as warmer temperatures make it less common for the lake to freeze.
In 2011, with the help of the DeOcampo Design Collaborative, the Friends of Baker Park initiated the Culler Lake Renaissance. A series of “listening” sessions were held to solicit community feedback about the future of this cherished landmark. The goal was to transform the depression era pond into a more pleasing modern and sustainable haven by improving water quality and enhancing the overall aesthetic character of the park.
With a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Friends were able to obtain the services of Frederick Seibert Associates to refine the concept and develop an overall master plan. After study and input from the community, City staff and elected officials, a two-phased plan was developed.
Phase One, a $2.2 million project funded primarily by the City and grants from the State of Maryland, is now in progress. Substantial and generous donations by Dr. George and Carolyn Smith, Larry Marsh, and other individuals are targeted for reconstructing the iconic fountain. These upgrades will improve storm water management and enhance water quality. The deteriorating fountain will be demolished and a new fountain with dramatic lighting and a more robust spray designed by Clearwater Landscape and Nursery, will be reconstructed in the identical “wedding cake” design. The removed material from the old fountain will be used to create fish habitat. A population of catfish, sunfish, and largemouth bass, all native species, will be introduced into the lake.
Water quality will be enhanced by biological and mechanical systems that remove nutrients and sediments. Three vegetated wetlands will be created to foster the growth of microorganisms and aquatic plants to absorb excess phosphorous and nitrogen. It is expected that water flowing out of the improved Culler Lake will be significantly cleaner. In our small way, the project will help improve the downstream environment with cleaner water flowing from our watershed into the Chesapeake Bay.
A new shared-use path including 2 pedestrian bridges over the wetlands will be erected along the lake’s south shore. Other improvements include a new retaining wall along the east shore. In addition, the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek will construct a pavilion on the west shore.
Plans for a second phase are being finalized that will create additional pathways, a lakeside promenade, interpretive signage, and a new entrance plaza along West College Terrace. The Culler Memorial bench will be refurbished and its missing water fountain and sundial will be constructed.
After more than three-quarter of a century, the lake’s original design will get a well- deserved facelift. The hard surfaces of the rigid rectangle will be softened by aquatic plants and the overall effect will be more naturalistic and inviting.
On the occasion of his 90th birthday in May of 1959, Lloyd Culler remarked about the need to protect the local watershed. His concern for protecting the environment is even more urgent today. The Culler Lake Renaissance expands and modernizes the actions of a previous generation. It’s a testament of this community’s continuing conservation heritage and the desire to pass this legacy to another generation. Like the excitement evident at the dedication in 1940, this 21st century revitalization of Culler Lake is another big deal.