Plan calls for upgrading Balto. Co. trail

$100,000 sought to add rest areas, fountains

April 14, 2003|By Jarrett Carter | Jarrett Carter,SUN STAFF

Surrounded by towering trees, rolling fields and the gurgling waters of the Gunpowder Falls, the North Central Railroad Trail attracts nearly a million visitors each year, from casual walkers to bikers, joggers and horseback riders.

Because it is considered such a valuable recreational resource, the Rotary Club of Hunt Valley has joined with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to raise money to build rest areas with benches and drinking fountains along the 20 miles of trail in Maryland, which runs from Ashland to the state line. A second segment in Pennsylvania extends another 20 miles to York.

"We're very close to the trail, and our community really doesn't have a gathering place," said Suzanne Amos, community service chairwoman for the Hunt Valley Rotary Club. "We just want to make it more community-oriented."

The 10-foot-wide crushed-stone trail, built along the route of the railroad that carried President Abraham Lincoln from Washington to Gettysburg, Pa., to deliver the Gettysburg Address, runs through Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Amos said visitors who frequent the trail said that more fountains - the 20-mile trail has three - and rest areas were needed. In response, the Rotary Club organized a Friends of the NCR Trail group to devise a plan.

Drinking fountains and rest areas will be placed intermittently along the trail. To pay for the work, a number of fund-raising strategies will be used.

Under one idea, contributors can buy a personalized paving stone. The stones will be placed near the rest stops.

"Each donor will be able to see their chosen names, from personal to pet, family or corporate, at a visible location on the trail," Amos said.

The Rotary Club also has placed large signs along the trail advertising its effort to raise $100,000 for the project, which organizers hope to complete by 2005.

The club began its fund-raising efforts last month and has attracted the attention of some local businesses - in particular, Baltimore-area Heavenly Ham stores.

"I really think that this is a project that the company can get behind," said Ken Higgins, chief executive officer of Sharebrook Management Co., and franchisee of six stores. "I think that the park and the trail is government work at its best, and we should really be willing to contribute to its future success."

All six stores will carry literature explaining how to purchase a brick or make a donation to the project, Higgins said.

During the week, people often visit the park on their lunch hour to enjoy a brisk walk or bike ride. Some are excited about the proposed additions to the trail.

"The bathrooms were a great idea. So, why not have a couple of drinking fountains?" said Max Remington of Shrewsbury, Pa., who was out walking during his lunch break.

Others fear the new fountains and rest stops will diminish the appeal of the park.

"I think people should bring their own things," said Bill Peck of Baltimore. "It is a nature trail, after all."

Park officials, however, are enthusiastic about the improvements.

"This is the most significant enhancement project funded by our visitors and friends that we have ever undertaken," said Sgt. Rob Marconi, area manager for Gunpowder Falls State Park. "It will be a major improvement in trail facilities and will attract families and sportsmen to share in the beauty and nature of this special area."

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