Hoping to enhance the natural beauty of the Patapsco Valley, a grass-roots organization will unveil three plans today for a trail network that would span historic sites in Baltimore and Howard counties, using the Patapsco River as a centerpiece.
The project by the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee would take about 10 years to complete and is designed to link existing hiking and bicycle trails that meander through Oella, Ellicott City and Catonsville.
It would form a living classroom highlighted by landmarks such as the Thomas Viaduct in Relay and remains of rustic textile and flour mills.
An open house to present the plan is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at the Trolley Stop restaurant on Oella Avenue in Ellicott City.
Preserving natural treasures
"Our hope is that people come to realize how special their area is and that they don't have to leave their area in order to have a good time and learn their own history," said Deana D. Rhodeside, an urban planner hired by the committee. "We've been trying to figure out ways to put these in a theme to attract visitors, use the resources and still be practical."
The Patapsco greenway would join several other trails in the Baltimore region, including Baltimore County's Northern Central Railroad Trail and the 13.3-mile Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, which runs from Glen Burnie to Severn.
The Patapsco committee was formed years ago with the goal of preserving the valley's historic and natural treasures, starting with the river, which originates from a spring in Carroll County.
Last fall, the greenway was recognized as a Maryland State Heritage Area by the Maryland Historical Trust, and the committee was awarded a grant to develop the trail plan.
"We want to share these with other people," said Charles L. Wagandt, a member of the greenway committee. "Using a trail system to historic sites is the only way to discover what's out here along the river."
Preliminary plans for the greenway would establish it on the Baltimore County side of the river between the Union Dam, where U.S. 40 crosses the Patapsco, and Oella.
Today's meeting will allow community members and preservationists a chance to view three options for the greenway.
One plan centers on a recreation-based park that would include outdoor activities centered in the Patapsco Valley State Park. Another option focuses on the Patapsco River and its contribution to the area's heritage. The third centers on surrounding communities, such as Oella and Ellicott City and their shopping and tourist attractions.
The cost of the greenway will be determined as plans near finalization, Wagandt said. A final plan is expected next spring.
State tourism officials say historic-area tours are second only in popularity to the Chesapeake Bay and other water-based attractions.
The Patapsco greenway would combine both, Wagandt said, "to focus on the river and the role it has played in the lives of the people and how it made possible the early Industrial Revolution."
Wagandt owns and has restored housing in Oella ranging from tiny mill houses to luxury dwellings. The old mill town, built on winding roads, is home to the earliest area mills that were established in the 18th century and led the Patapsco Valley into the Industrial Revolution.
Plans call for the trail system to connect with the newly opened Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, Ellicott City's B&O Railroad Station and Museum, and the Patapsco Female Institute Historical Park.
A wish list outlined last week by Rhodeside includes a hotel and convention center in a converted mill and upscale restaurants and shops in Oella.
"What we are doing now is exploring lots of ideas," Rhodeside said. "When we narrow it down to develop one preferred plan, we'll start looking at what we can afford to do and the phasing in of the plan over a 10-year period."
Pub Date: 10/05/98