The Baltimore County Council voted Monday to accept the donation of the Short Line Railroad property from the Catonsville Rails to Trails, ensuring that county will sustain the former railroad as a walking and biking trail for years to come.
"That's been a long-term goal of ours, and the County Council vote really is sealing that for us," said Tom Aljuni, president of Catonsville Rails to Trails. "I'd view us as stewards and custodians of the trail (for the next 10 years)."
Under the agreement, Baltimore County will accept the 22.5-acres as a donation and take over maintenance of the trail in 10 years. In the interim, Catonsville Rails to Trails will complete construction on the 2.2-mile trail and maintain it until the 10-year period is up.
The 2.2-mile trail, which begins near the city-county line and extends west through Catonsville to the Bloomsbury Community Center, has been under construction since Catonsville Rails to Trails began leasing the property from the Caton and Loudon Railway Co. in 2006.
The nonprofit organization began by pulling out the old railroad track. That project resulted in more than 110 tons of metal recycled from the track.
A "huge amount of trash and debris," much of it from illegal dumping, was also cleared from the site.
Thanks to such efforts, residents can enjoy what county Recreation and Parks Director Barry Williams called a "nice walking path."
"From Maiden Choice (Lane) to the Charlestown Retirement Community, the trail is really in first-class condition," Ajluni said. "We've also made substantial progress clearing from Maiden to the Beltway."
The bridge that carried trains across the Beltway no longer exists, so where the trail meets the Beltway, walkers and bikers will take back roads to Frederick Road.
As part of its ongoing renovation to the Beltway overpass at Frederick Road, the State Highway Administration has agreed to put in a sidewalk after which trail users will take Wade Avenue back to the trail.
While transferring ownership of the trail has always been a goal for Catonsville Rails to Trails, they hoped the county would agree to maintain the trail upon completion.
But Ajluni learned during negotiations that that "wasn't really in the cards" for the county.
Williams said Dec. 5 that he fully supports making Baltimore County more accessible to bikes and the organization's willingness to maintain the property for 10 years "sweetened the pot" for the county.
"In the past, the county would have said that we'll take care of it," Williams said.
A lack of manpower and financial resources on the county's end made the 10-year stewardship necessary.
"That's what it took to really make it work for them," Ajluni said, "so we were happy to do that."
Williams, who commended both County Councilman Tom Quirk and former Councilman Sam Moxley for their dedication to seeing the deal through, added that there was an "intergenerational" benefit to the trail, which starts near the Charlestown Retirement Community.
"I think it's a huge win," Quirk said. "I'm a strong and passionate believer that we need to do more in Baltimore County to promote walk-ability and bike-ability.
"It promotes more of a livable community, and that type of community helps increase property values. Lots of families want to live in those types of communities."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun