Park linking east, west Mount Airy set to get $40,000 from Md.

September 09, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Mount Airy's "Rails to Trails" project, to create a linear park connecting the east and west sides of town, is slated to receive nearly $40,000 in state open space money.

County recreation and parks director Richard J. Soisson recommended to the county commissioners that Mount Airy and three other towns receive a total of $98,000 in open space funds to pay for individual town park projects.

The "Rails to Trails" project in Mount Airy was developed as part of the town's 1994 master plan as a way to provide more recreational opportunities for residents and to preserve some of the undeveloped areas in town.

Mount Airy's 1994 master plan describes the project as a way to "show off the spectacular hills, valleys and views framed by the rolling topography."

The first phase of the project will make use of a two-mile section of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track, abandoned in the early 1970s. The railroad bed runs from the old train station to Watkins Park.

Town planner Teresa Bamberger said the trail will encourage more pedestrians to come to the downtown area and make Watkins Park more accessible for walkers and bikers.

"It's something everybody can do -- from senior citizens to parents with kids in strollers," Ms. Bamberger said.

She added that using the old railroad bed will "open up an important piece of history in the town."

Each year, Mr. Soisson said, the county receives a certain amount of state money earmarked for open space projects.

Carroll's eight towns meet to decide how the money should be used and usually choose to fund three or four projects.

Besides Mount Airy, the other towns selected to receive open space money this year are Hampstead, Sykesville and Westminster.

The selections must be approved by the county recreation and parks office and the county commissioners, Mr. Soisson said.

Under the state open space program, the state funds 75 percent of an award and local governments must come up with the rest.

With the "Rails to Trails" project, the county and Mount Airy are each contributing 12.5 percent to the $40,000 cost of the first phase.

Mr. Soisson said Mount Airy's park project is consistent with the county's efforts to create more linear parks.

"It fits right in to our greenway master plan we're working on for the county," he said.

Before work begins on the "Rails to Trails" project, Ms. Bamberger said Mount Airy must acquire the land needed for the first phase of the trail. Five land owners are involved.

Mount Airy officials plan to meet with the property owners to negotiate agreements allowing the town to use portions of the properties needed for the project.

Ms. Bamberger said the town still has $7,000 in unused open space money from last year, and it is applying for $10,000 through the state Rails to Trails program, which is administered through the state Department of Natural Resources.

The money could be used for land acquisition, although town officials are hoping owners will agree to donate the land for the park project, Ms. Bamberger said.

The $40,000 in open space funds will go toward construction of the first section of the trail, which should be completed within a year.

As envisioned in the Mount Airy master plan, the trail will continue east from Watkins Park to the original stone bridge that carried the B&O Railroad over the Patapsco River to downtown Mount Airy.

Going west, from the old train station on Main Street, the trail will continue through Prospect and East-West parks, then out to 90 acres of town-owned property.

Ms. Bamberger said railroad trail projects are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country.

"Some states have developed hundreds of miles of trails," she said.

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