Outgoing County Executive O. James Lighthizer challenged Executive-elect Robert Neall to follow his lead Friday, as he broke ground on the first phase of the planned 10-mile hiker-biker path South Shore Trail.
"We're getting it started and hopefully Mr. Neall will see the wisdom of continuing it," Lighthizer said.
So far, the county has approved money for a half-mile section of the trail between Waterbury Road and I-97 in Millersville. If Neall and the future County Council choose to follow Lighthizer's example, the trail eventually would connect Annapolis to Odenton along the tracks of the defunct WB & A railroad line, paralleling the Severn River's south shore.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place just one month after the grand opening of the $10.8 million, 14-mile B & A Trail, which runs roughly along the north shore of the Severn River between Glen Burnie and Annapolis.
Council members David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, and Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, who also attended the ceremony, promised to push to keep the rails-to-trails movement alive in the county while Lighthizer, chairman of the state Greenways Commission, makes his case statewide.
According to the master plan, the trail's first phase would carry it two miles, from the intersection of Waterbury and Bacon Ridge roads to Route 3.
Bids have gone out and construction on the first half-mile section should start later this winter, Recreation and Parks capital projects manager Jack Keene said.
Plans call for the park to run from Annapolis to Odenton starting at Bestgate Road, moving north along General's Highway past the Dwight D.
Eisenhower golf course and the county fairgrounds to Waterbury Road, where it would cut west through Millersville across Route 3, then run parallel to Route 175 into the heart of Odenton.
Keene said the plan is to build one section at a time, as money becomes available.
It may be more difficult to acquire all the land for the South Shore Trail than it was to get the land for the B & A Trail, because private landowners in Odenton and Millersville own parts of the route. The entire North Shore route was purchased from the Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad.
Boschert promised to deal openly and fairly with those landowners. But the biggest obstacle is likely to be money.
Due to unexpected drainage problems, the presence of gas lines, a $1 million bridge over Route 100 and numerous historical landmarks, the B & A trail cost an average of $750,000 per mile to develop.
Lighthizer said the South Shore Trail could be done for a fraction of that price with a crushed gravel path and by avoiding such large expenses as the Route 100 bridge.
"The reason the price of the B & A ran so high is that (Recreation and Parks Director) Joe McCann has a propensity to build Cadillacs, and that's fine when the times are good," Lighthizer said. "In the times ahead, we may have to settle for a Chevy, though -- but it should be built in any case."