THE 14-MILE B&A Trail Park -- a recreational spine through the heart of Anne Arundel and the length of the Central County area -- opened to the delight of outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and walks of life nearly 14 years ago.
Now it is fast becoming part of a wider trail system whose users may someday be saying, "Who needs roads?"
According to Ranger Matthew George, safety officer for the B&A Trail Park, plans are in the works for a new hike-and-bike South Shore Trail that will begin near Annapolis Mall and end in Odenton.
It will give Annapolis-area residents a choice of two major trails. A series of small trail segments are known collectively as the Colonial Annapolis Maritime Trail, which park officials say could be used to reach the two major trails.
Work on the approximately 15-mile South Shore Trail, which will follow a northwesterly course from the mall area, is scheduled to be complete within two years, George says.
"The trail will run along the old Annapolis and Elkridge rail line," says George, who came to Anne Arundel County a little more than a year ago after working as a National Park Service ranger on the National Mall in Washington.
Before work begins on the new trail, a short link from Odenton to the WB&A recreational trail in Prince George's County will be completed. That trail is named for the old Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis rail line that operated from 1908 to 1935.
"That name ought to totally confuse users of the B&A Trail," the local trail's superintendent, Dave Dionne, says of the WB&A. Dionne has been at the B&A (on the old Baltimore and Annapolis rail line) since it opened.
The South Shore Trail is one of a series of projects planned by the county's Recreation and Parks Department.
"The county will take over the Jonas Green State Park this winter," Dionne says. That park, just less than 5 acres and mostly wooded, is near Route 450 and Greenbury Point Road, on the north side of the Severn River Bridge. "We plan to build a ranger station and make it a little county park."
The county will also manage the fishing pier next to the park property.
A historic Millersville property recently acquired by the county will become headquarters for the county trails division, says George.
The new headquarters will be the Miller house at Cecil Avenue and Millersville Road, built in 1840 and thought to be the oldest building in continuous residential use in the county before its purchase.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Georgian-style structure was built by George Miller, son of John Miller, a farmer credited with settling Millersville. In 1839, John Miller purchased a 470-acre tract known as Hammonds Inclosure, and a year after the house was built, the enterprising son opened a post office and general store in the family residence. The post office remained in business until 1972.
The new headquarters will take over the role of the B&A Trail headquarters at 51 W. Earleigh Heights Road, a renovated general store built in 1889 and used as a train stop.
Trail safety recognized
The B&A Trail Park, known for its beauty and accessibility, was recognized in September for its consistent safety record, due in no small part to the efforts of Dionne and George.
Their accomplishments were documented in the study "Rail-Trails and Liabilities, a Primer on Trail-related Liability Issues and Risk Management Techniques" written for the Rails to Trails Conservancy in Washington in cooperation with the National Park Service.
Written by conservancy research director Hugh Morris, the report highlighted the safety management of three American trails -- the 320-mile Cowboy Trail in Nebraska, the 6.5-mile Marsh Creek Trail in California and our own B&A.
"The B&A Trail was selected because it is an outstanding example of good trail management," Morris says.
Dionne says that he and his staff keep meticulous notes, documenting everything they see during patrols.
George and his five-ranger team patrol the B&A Trail at least twice a day, and in some areas more often, he says, adding that at times a sitting patrol will be in busy areas such as those behind shopping centers.
"We're pushing our Anne Arundel County safety manual for linear parks that we just put together," George says.
"We will make it available to other linear parks so they can adapt to their own what we use. It's very local right now, but we will make it available around the country."
The manual and the national report are on display at the Earleigh Heights Ranger Station.
Dionne created a volunteer program called Trailblazers. Supplementing the rangers, 30 volunteers, who range in age from 11 to 75, patrol the trail on foot, bike and in-line skates.
Volunteers receive three weekends of training in first aid, CPR and patrol techniques. Information on volunteering or trail programs: 410-222-6244.