THE HOWARD County Spinal Pathway, linking Savage Park in southern Howard County to Lake Elkhorn in the Columbia village of Owen Brown, is almost complete. It was built in two phases, with the first 2 1/2 -mile section finished in 1999.
Phase one runs from Savage Park across Vollmerhausen Road in Jessup, under Interstate 95, and continues north to the Pratt Truss Bridge near Old Guilford Road in Columbia.
Construction of phase two, which is two miles long, began about a year ago. This portion of the pathway crosses the Pratt Truss Bridge and continues northwest under Guilford Road, Broken Land Parkway and Route 32 before heading east to join the Columbia Association pathways that surround Lake Elkhorn.
The cost of the 4 1/2 -mile project, about $2.4 million, is being shared by the federal and Howard County governments.
Project manager Joe Kidwell of the Department of Public Works and Clara Gouin, senior park planner at the Department of Recreation and Parks, managed both phases of the pathway project for the county.
"For many years, people will be walking down these pathways and enjoying it," Gouin said. "It's a wonderful amenity. It adds to the quality of life."
The pathway was designed by the Jessup office of Greenman-Pederson Inc., a New York-based engineering consulting firm.
The pathway runs parallel to the Little Patuxent River, and a series of elevated boardwalks and bridges have been built to protect the wetland areas from pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The second phase includes four bridges, three of which, all recently installed, are prefabricated steel-frame structures with wooden decks. The fourth is the refurbished Pratt Truss Bridge, an 80-foot span rising 15 feet above the Little Patuxent River.
The bridge was built circa 1902 along the Patuxent branch of the B&O Railroad that ran from Savage Mill to the granite quarries in the town of Guilford - now Columbia. The original structure is still intact, but for several years the floorboards were missing, making it impossible to cross the bridge.
"We've been waiting for a long time to go over that bridge," said Columbia resident Ann Meenan. She and her neighbor Michele Raine often walk the section of the pathway that opened in 1999.
Last week, a wooden floor was laid. The bridge will be open to the public when the side rails are in place.
Gouin and Kidwell believe the project will be finished by the end of this month.
"We're so happy it's going to be done soon," Raine said. "I just hope everybody takes care of the path and appreciates what's being done for us."
According to Gouin, a name will be chosen for the pathway before the dedication ceremony Nov. 2.
A guide to the Columbia and Howard County pathway system, A Path Runs Through It, may be purchased for $2 at the Recreation and Parks building, 7120 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia.
Author Michelle Green will discuss her new book, A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Savage branch library, 9525 Durness Lane.
Johnson was the first woman to play professional baseball on a men's team. She pitched three winning seasons for the Indianapolis Clowns, in the Negro Leagues, from 1953 to 1955.
Green lives in Upper Marlboro and teaches writing at George Washington University.
The one-hour program is for children age 9 and older. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
To register, call 410-880-5980.
Seasonal Inspirations, an exhibition of original paintings, prints, and handcrafted jewelry, opens Sunday in Studio No. 108 of the Carding Building at Historic Savage Mill. The International Center for Artistic Development is providing space for the show, which is one of the stops on Howard County Arts Council's annual "Road to the Arts" celebrating the opening of the 2002-2003 gallery season this weekend.
The exhibition includes paintings and prints on jazz and other themes by Eljay McBride and jewelry by Beverly Cooper. Cooper recycles old belts, beaded curtains and jewelry to make her custom pieces.
The show runs through Oct. 15. Hours are from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment. A reception will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Information: 301-604-4484 or email@example.com.