Rail-to-trail project moves ahead Funding sought

map is to be drawn SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

June 18, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Mount Airy officials are moving ahead with plans to develop a rail-to-trail project that will connect downtown to Watkins Park and points east.

Town planner Teresa Bamberger said the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Commission has applied for state Project Open Space grants to fund the $30,300 project. The commission also has agreed to have a map drawn of the trail area.

"The trail is something we've had in mind for a couple of years," said Councilman David Pyatt, the council's liaison to the recreation commission. "Now it's just a matter of getting everything together and doing the project. We have to take care of little details."

The little details include working with property owners along the site of the proposed trail -- the railroad bed of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad -- to gain rights of way or easements, town officials said.

Ms. Bamberger said the map will identify property owners and the topography of the trail site. It will be used in negotiations with land owners.

The first phase of the rail-to-trail project will connect downtown Mount Airy with Watkins Park to the east. The trail will run through a cut in Parrs Ridge that affords "real unusual scenery," Ms. Bamberger said.

Most of the property along the first phase of the project lies within a steep ravine and is not considered developable, she said.

"[The area] is really beautiful," Ms. Bamberger said. "There's a lot of history to it. There are 60-foot cliffs. This was a major obstacle for the railroad coming through. It's just incredible."

Town officials are excited about connecting downtown to Watkins Park, a county-owned park on Route 27. They believe the trail will bring more business to Main Street and make the park more accessible to other residents.

"A lot of people perceive the park as being only accessible to Route 27," Ms. Bamberger said. "This could be mutually beneficial for downtown businesses and merchants and park activity."

The railroad bed is flat and the trail will be accessible for the disabled, elderly and parents pushing strollers, she said.

"It will be a safe walking path," she said. "Everybody talks about there not being enough places to walk around town."

Town officials don't expect to hear whether they will receive Project Open Space funds for a couple of months. They are competing with Carroll's other municipalities for the money, administered by the county but provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Project Open Space money will be used for surveys and legal fees, acquiring easements, laying a trail surface and building an elevated boardwalk over wetlands. Community groups are expected to help with cleanup and other aspects of the project, Mr. Pyatt said.

While awaiting word on the grant money, town officials plan to negotiate with property owners along the trail.

Future rail-to-trail paths will connect Watkins Park to the south branch of the Patapsco River and possibly to proposed greenways in South Carroll.

"There are a lot of possibilities," Ms. Bamberger said. "We could connect to the Gillis Falls reservoir and other trails."

Mr. Pyatt said the rail-to-trail project has wide support in the community.

"Everyone seems to be supportive of it, and everybody that sees plans likes it," he said. "We hope to link up with greenways through Central Maryland. People would be able to bike or jog many miles."

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