Hidden utility lines slow trail project Builders find water pipes along Gwynns Falls route

November 09, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Unexpected obstacles -- water and utility lines deep in Leakin Park -- have delayed until spring completion of the Gwynns Falls Trail, a 4.5-mile hiking and biking circuit through West Baltimore's most rugged terrain.

Some of the obstacles had lain buried since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded Gwynns Falls Valley in June 1972.

Clearing a path through Leakin Park down a hill from historic Crimea Mansion, construction workers discovered a set of utility pipes initially thought to be unused.

They were very much in use. "Some were the pipes that supplied Catonsville with its water," said Gary Anderson, construction chief for Beka Industries, the Morrell Park-based firm building the trail.

Other abandoned and active utility lines were located in the section of the heavily wooded stream-valley park, which wraps around the Windsor Hills, Hunting Ridge and Rosemont neighborhoods.

Two new bridges, to be used by hikers, also had to be redesigned. Their delivery has been pushed back for at least a month. The longest span will be 161 feet and will cross Dead Run, a stream that flows into Gwynns Falls near the intersection of Wetheredsville and Franklintown roads.

On a chilly morning last week, with the park's stand of tulip poplar trees in blazing golden foliage, workers used heavy equipment to extend the trail along Franklintown near Hilton Parkway.

They were also rebuilding the baseball field and basketball court at Leon Day Park, at the Bloomingdale Oval section of Gwynns Falls Park.

But work is largely completed on about 40 percent of the 10-foot-wide, twisting pathway through the neighboring Leakin and Gwynns Falls parks. That 1.75-mile stretch, known as the Mill Race Trail, begins at Windsor Mill Road off Gwynns Falls Parkway and runs under a canopy of mature oak, maple and ash trees. It is not officially open but is in use.

About half the trail will be paved with asphalt and the rest covered in crushed limestone.

Anderson said he expected the whole project to be ready by the end of May.

While unforeseen problems have slowed the trail's construction, Anderson noted, little of the work has been vandalized.

"We had one break-in where some tools were taken, and someone took a shot at our signs" and portable toilets, Anderson said.

Pub Date: 11/09/98

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