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Department of Housing and Community Development

A New Canvas for Baltimore: Honoring Firefighter Racheal Wilson, A Memorial Park and Playground Unlike Any Other

A playground that is firefighter themed

On February 9th, 2007, Racheal Michelle Wilson lost her life in a fire training exercise in the Boyd-Booth community neighborhood located in South West Baltimore. She was the first female firefighter in Maryland to die in the line of duty. But through community support, her legacy now lives on.

To honor her dedication and selfless service to the City of Baltimore, the community gathered and attended a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, April 14th, at the former site of a vacant row home on South Calverton Road where Ms. Wilson lost her life fifteen years ago.

That site is now known as the Racheal M. Wilson Memorial Park and Playground. Conceived by Jennifer Zhai of the Baltimore City Dept. of Recreation and Parks and with additional input from the Boyd-Booth community and the Wilson family, the newly developed park is designed as a firetruck and a giant firefighter helmet. A mural of Racheal Wilson, supported by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts and the State of Maryland’s Project C.O.R.E. efforts, overlooks the park welcoming guests of all ages. With feedback from the community and the Wilson family, a Baltimore born/based street artist, Justin Nethercutt was able to design a brilliant and beautiful mural of Ms. Wilson. Nethercutt’s pieces are throughout the city and serve as a social documentary of the struggles, history, and dilemmas that Baltimore faces, but an attempt to capture and bring out the city’s cultural pride.

This project and Baltimore City’s revitalization is supported by Governor Hogan’s Project C.O.R.E., or Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise, a collaboration between the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland Stadium Authority, and City of Baltimore. Since Project C.O.R.E.’s establishment in 2016, this successful partnership with the city has supported the creation of almost 15 acres of parks and green spaces, 1,200 units of affordable rental housing, and more than 460,000 square feet of leasable space.

With a record of more than 5,000 vacant, blighted units removed and stabilized, Project C.O.R.E. has also contributed to a decline of approximately 11% in vacant building notices issued within the city. With complementary financing through other state programs, Project C.O.R.E. has directed more than $806 million in state funds to Baltimore communities, leveraging over $2.8 billion in other private, public, and philanthropic dollars – a historic and unprecedented investment for the revitalization of the city.

The trend continues as Governor Hogan has included more than $20 million for Project C.O.R.E. in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Like this park, which turned a tragedy and vacant properties into a remarkable green space for recreation, relaxation, reflection, and an area to build community, Project C.O.R.E. is transforming negatives into positives in every corner of the City.