Greenway proposal hits a wall Residents see harm in trail network to link Patapsco communities

October 06, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

A project to link the natural, cultural and historic resources of towns along the Patapsco River in Baltimore and Howard counties met a major roadblock last night at a community meeting when dozens of angry citizens voiced concern that the plan would ruin the resources it purports to protect.

About 100 citizens attended the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee's meeting at the Trolley Stop in Oella to hear urban planner Deana D. Rhodeside unveil proposals for a trail network that would link the communities of Catonsville, Ellicott City, Elkridge, Oella and Relay.

"I believe this plan is ridiculous," said Larry Meyer, an Ellicott City resident and an avid fly-fisherman. "It is a front by real estate agents to make some money on a natural resource."

Rhodeside, director of the landscape architecture and planning firm Rhodeside & Hartwell Inc. in Alexandria, Va., presented three plans for the greenway, one showcasing natural areas, another focusing on historic attractions and the last centered on the riverside towns.

At last night's meeting -- the first of two planned public workshops -- Rhodeside said she wanted to hear from citizens before the firm draws up a more detailed plan to be presented at the second public workshop in November.

A final plan is expected in the spring.

A number of citizens voiced concern that no study had been done to assess the environmental impact of any of the proposals.

Rhodeside said it was too early in the planning stages for such a study, but citizens questioned the feasibility of doing a full environmental impact study by spring.

"There's no way to avoid economic development," said Bob Cross, an Oella resident who said he is a Maryland National Guardsman. "But to do an environmental study is going to take a year."

Cross said he came to the meeting because he is concerned about ducks, geese, otters and other animals that call the Patapsco River home.

After hearing Rhodeside's plans, he said, he had more concerns.

He said he thought Rhodeside overlooked the potential traffic problems, especially in Ellicott City, a hub in the plans.

"You can't unload a truck there," Cross said. "I think some people are going to try to do it too fast, and it's going to become more of a mess."

"Environmental groups call it 'Paveway,' " said Joseph Dominick, a Relay resident who said he has fished the river for almost 40 years. "Every time you create more flat top, it creates more

runoff."

Rhodeside said her firm plans to conduct environmental studies.

"The environmental impact of whatever has been proposed must be considered and will be considered," she said.

The Patapsco committee was formed years ago to preserve the valley's historic and natural treasures.

Last fall, the greenway achieved recognition as a Maryland State Heritage Area by the Maryland Historical Trust. To complete the next step toward certification, the committee hired a consultant team led by Rhode-side & Hartwell.

The greenway project would take about 10 years to complete and would link hiking and bicycle trails as well as such historic landmarks as the Thomas Viaduct in Relay, a historic Oella mill and the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City.

Some of Rhodeside's ideas included creating an excursion railroad that would run from Baltimore to Ellicott City, Relay and Avalon; reviving the trolley line that used to run from Ellicott City to Catonsville; and building a parking garage off Main Street in Ellicott City. She also suggested having walking tours of Relay and building a hotel in a converted mill in Oella.

All three plans, she said, would call for increased parking, signs, accommodations and park concessions.

All would have at least one visitors center that would distribute trail maps and brochures.

Rhodeside said her goal is to make the Patapsco Heritage Greenway a "major regional destination" for people from

Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington and Delaware.

But many citizens at last night's meeting said they don't like the idea of tourists crowding their neighborhoods and possibly destroying the river valley.

Relay resident Stephen Doyle criticized Greenway planners for "turning our quiet neighborhood into a tourist attraction" and "needless destruction of the environment in a watershed area."

L "I think you have a lot of people very alarmed," Doyle said.

Meyer said he worries most about the river.

"It's an emerald in the urban sprawl," he said. "The river is such a delicate ecological entity, I don't think it could take the impact."

The plan, he said, benefits one small group of people at the expense of everyone else.

"I think it's a good thing for store owners and shop operators," Meyer said. "But for the rest of the people, who do not have that particular interest, it's a negative impact."

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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