River trail project wins federal grant

September 06, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

A nonprofit group seeking to create a heritage trail network along a 40-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River in Harford and Cecil counties has received a federal grant intended to help get the project started.

The $80,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will be used by the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Inc. to design a plan for biking and hiking trails along improved roads, create better shoreline access for anglers, and post signs highlighting the culture, history, and environmental aspects of the area.

The plan also would serve as the tourism group's application for National Scenic Byway designation, which could lead to more federal money for the project in the future.

"The designation means you are marketed at the national level with other communities," said Mary Ann Lisanti, director of the heritage group.

The group envisions a trail - including a waterway component - that would be easily accessible from Interstate 95 and U.S. 40 so visitors could more readily experience the river and its environs, said Lisanti, who also is a Democratic candidate for the Harford County Council.

Along Route 222 in Port Deposit, for example, motorists can see the river from a narrow roadway, but cannot easily reach it, she said. Only a few spots lend themselves to taking in the scenery. Federal money could pay for land acquisition, road improvements, trail construction and maybe a few scenic overlooks.

The federal government has designated about 80 scenic byways throughout the country, including one through the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland and another along state roads bordering the Chesapeake Bay. The group expects to spend a year writing the planning document, and another year before learning whether the project receives the scenic byway designation. If successful, the project then would receive federal funding and would take several years to complete.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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