Lessons of linear parks Success of B&A trail is instructive for others battling over bikeways.

April 02, 1996

PUBLIC OPINION on linear parks and bike trails swings like a pendulum. When initially proposed, these greenway projects often run into opposition. Once they have been built and are used, however, these trails and paths often become one of a community's most treasured amenities.

It is not surprising, therefore, to find a smattering of opposition to a proposed two-mile linear park in the Carroll County seat of Westminster. If that county's Board of Commissioners approve this park -- as they should -- many of the opponents are likely to become enthusiastic advocates.

We're reminded of former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall's biggest fear two years ago when he weighed running for a second term or the governorship: Possibly having to tear up the B&A hiker-biker trail that traverses Anne Arundel in the bed of the former B&A Railroad.

When the Anne Arundel trail was conceived in the late 1980s, communities along the route were up in arms. Residents feared it would attract undesirables, who would bring crime and trash.

But now the path is considered to be among the county's favorite public spaces. Should the Central Light Rail Line ever get extended along that route from Glen Burnie to Annapolis, Mr. Neall envisioned an outcry even greater than when the park went in.

Such turnabout in attitude appears common. Dan Schaller of Westminster, testifying at a recent hearing on the Carroll proposal, recounted his own change in thinking.

Years ago, he had opposed creation of a similar park in Albuquerque, where he was living at the time. Because it would link his upper-middle neighborhood with a much poorer one, he thought his New Mexico neighborhood would suffer. Once the trail was built and Mr. Schaller got to meet the interesting variety of people who used it, however, his opinion on its value reversed completely. Study after study shows that most opposition to these greenways disappears once they are built and used.

The Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks has developed a sensitive design that acknowledges community concerns. Its commissioners should heed the experience in Anne Arundel, and approve this project.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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