Baltimore and Annapolis Trail is a good fit for recreational path linking East Coast cities Alliance selects route as one of network's first.

June 06, 1996|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE - The Baltimore and Annapolis Trail is going national.

The 13.3-mile hiker-biker trail was selected by the East Coast Greenway Alliance as one of the first designated trail sections of the East Coast Greenway network.

The honor means the trail will be part of a 2,500-mile recreational path connecting metropolitan cities from Maine to Florida that could be mapped as soon as the year 2000.

"I think this is an important distinction," said David Dionne, park superintendent of the B&A Trail and member of the national board of directors of the East Coast Greenway Alliance. "It's an affirmation of what's right about trails."

The B&A Trail runs parallel to Ritchie Highway along what used to be the old Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad. The paved surface was opened in fall 1990 by the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

The trail was selected after Dionne nominated it and the North Central Railroad Trail in Gunpowder Falls State Park in January. Although he is still waiting for North Central officials to send him more information about that trail, Dionne said he did not have that problem with the trail he supervises.

"We don't have the greatest scenery," he said. "But what we do have is a safe trail that has been recognized for the way the community has embraced it and the way it's been designed. It's a national model."

Karen Votava, executive director of the Boston-based East Coast Greenway Alliance, said she fell in love with the trail after she biked it in April 1995.

"The landscape is nice, and the trail is a really fine trail," Votava said. "We're really proud to have it as part of our system."

As of June 1, the B&A Trail and four other paths in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey are official trails in the network's first phase, which seeks to link cities between Boston and Washington.

The second phase will includes cities between Washington and Miami, and the third phase will seek to connect Boston and Augusta, Maine.

Dionne said the network benefits not only the people who use it, but also the communities where the trails are located.

"The people using the trails are buying gasoline here, buying food here, spending nights at local inns here," he said. "Wherever they go, they're spending their money. There's a tremendous economic boom."

Many people using the trail yesterday said they were unaware of the national designation, but praised what the path had to offer.

"For me, it's a nice place," said Trip Beans, 22, an in-line skater from Annapolis. "I can go and work out and it helps me stay in shape."

Charlotte Lough and Carol Penyak, both of Ellicott City, said they don't mind driving 30 minutes to bike on the trail.

"But we would love to have this in [our] area," said Lough, 38. "This would be wonderful."

Dionne has bigger plans for the trail network. He said he would like to see it extend into eastern Canada, head west, and spiral south along the West Coast.

"There's no reason why this thing can't go international," Dionne said. "I think the sky's the limit."

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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