Six-mile trail is planned from Bel Air to Forest Hill

March 19, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County plans to construct a six-mile hiking trail -- the first leg of what would be known as the Ma and Pa Heritage Corridor -- from Bel Air to Forest Hill.

The trail, also suitable for bike riding, would stretch from Heavenly Waters Park on Tollgate Road to Friends Park in Forest Hill, according to Bill Nicodemus, chief of parks and facilities for the county's Parks and Recreation Department.

Its financing would come in part from a $709,000 federal grant -- if that sum is matched by the county.

The County Council is being asked to approve a transfer of capital project money from acquisitions to development in order to meet that requirement.

A public hearing on the funding is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers on Level A of the Circuit Courthouse in Bel Air.

The Harford trail eventually would stretch from the Gunpowder Falls State Park on the Baltimore County-Harford border to the Pennsylvania line, Mr. Nicodemus said.

It would follow the rail bed of the old Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, nicknamed the Ma & Pa Railroad. It ceased operating in the 1950s.

Part of the proposed trail would be on county-owned land or county easements, but Mr. Nicodemus said portions of the former railroad's right-of-way are now occupied by privately owned homes and businesses.

County officials would attempt to secure easements in those cases and build the trail around homes and other structures, Mr. Nicodemus said. "Otherwise, we will follow the public road," he said.

The trail would roughly parallel the U.S. 1 bypass and Route 24, eventually crossing the bypass near Rock Spring and crossing Route 23 in Forest Hill. "Our plan is to have it done in a year," he said.

The trail would be constructed of "stone dust," which is fine stone formed into a hard surface suitable for walking or bike riding. The surface would be similar to that used in the Northern Central Railroad Trail, a popular recreational trail stretching from Ashland in northern Baltimore County to the Pennsylvania line.

The plan for the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail is part of a nationwide trend to convert abandoned rail beds to recreational trails. More than 500 such rail trails have been established across the country.

The trail is a good example of how federal, state, county and private interests can cooperate to create alternative modes of transportation and recreational facilities, said Bob Graham of the state Department of Natural Resources.

He said the Ma & Pa rail bed, which also reaches south into Baltimore County and north into Pennsylvania, is one of 106 different "linear parks" in the state that DNR's Greenways Commission has identified for recreational potential. The list includes the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, a circuit of trails under construction on the Harford and Cecil County banks the Susquehanna River from the Conowingo Dam to the Chesapeake Bay.

The first leg of that greenway, a two-mile section from Conowingo to the Susquehanna State Park, is scheduled to open in June, Mr. Graham said.

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