The current state and future of the Rosewood Center is one of the most pressing issues in Baltimore County. Despite its complex and troubled past, the Rosewood Center presents the State a great opportunity to transform an environmentally hazardous parcel of land into a community gem. An environmental report commissioned by Senator Zirkin and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene concludes that the Rosewood property is currently unsafe and uninhabitable.
Established in 1888, the Rosewood Center was originally named the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded. Since its inception, the institution was well known for being underfunded and poorly managed. Originally founded as a humanitarian effort to help integrate the developmentally ill into society, the Rosewood Center became a place for lifelong institutionalization often secluding patients from society for the entirety of their lives. Overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed throughout its existence, Rosewood was referred to as "Maryland's Shame" in a 1949 multi-piece article by the Baltimore Sun.
State government gradually downsized and marginalized the Rosewood Center. While it still housed patients until 2008, Rosewood functioned for years as a small institution despite its large property. On January 15 2008, Governor O'Malley announced the imminent closure of the Rosewood Center. Following that announcement, the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene relocated all patients housed at Rosewood to other settings, including the removal of the 'forensic' or court-ordered patients to a more secure setting.
The Rosewood State Facility is a sprawling field of abandoned buildings filled with lead and asbestos, a network of underground tunnels, and an environmental hazard of tremendous proportions. The soil contains buried coal ash, a known toxin. The buildings and tunnels are both laden with asbestos and lead paint within the deteriorating walls. Soil tests show evidence of various toxins, including arsenic. The environmental cleanup of this property will likely run into the tens of millions of dollars. Until its completion, the safety risks of the Rosewood campus will continue to hinder the great potential that this land offers.
Since its closure, Senator Zirkin worked hard alongside community organizations, the District 11 Legislative Team, and the Administration to develop an overall plan for the Rosewood property. Senator Zirkin believed that a "master plan process' was required to determine the best use of the remainder of Rosewood. With Senator Zirkin's support, consensus formed around a plan in which Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College) will purchase the remainder of the Rosewood campus.
Despite enormous challenges, Stevenson University stepped forward with a plan that transforms a dangerous parcel of land. Stevenson University plans to raze most buildings on the site and develop baseball, football and soccer fields, tennis courts, and a community park. Stevenson worked with all of the surrounding communities and organizations, including the Irvine Nature Center, Greater Greenspring Association, ROG, area Recreation Councils, the Valleys Planning Council, and State and local officials to develop a plan for this area. According to the plan, the largest building on the site will be used for a new School of Education. In combination with Stevenson University's rapid growth at the Owings Mills Boulevard Campus, this plan could help anchor our community as a "college town' well into the future.
While we should all be excited at the promise that this plan offers the community, we must also be wary of the serious risks it poses. As mentioned earlier, the Rosewood campus is currently uninhabitable due to grave health risks. We must ensure that our plan accounts for the years of work that must be done so that this vision may become a reality under the safest of conditions.