A Catonsville nonprofit is trying a new solution to an old problem this week as part of its ongoing effort to provide the community with walking paths.
Catonsville Rails to Trails will use a gravel substance, called crush and run, that will allow for easier pedestrian traffic as it begins resurfacing a section of the Short Line Trail from Maiden Choice Lane to Paradise Avenue.
Volunteers from the group have been preparing the one-third-mile section of Short Line trail for the final steps in the repurposing by unearthing and donating the old rail tracks, widening the existing dirt path and leveling the ground.
The resurfacing was scheduled to begin Monday, March 4.
Workers from Catonsville-based Link Contracting and RLW Services will install a layer of geo-textile material that will allow water to drain from the trail without letting vegetation grow up through the gravel.
Then, the crush and run — tiny pieces of gravel mixed with a concrete aggregate that holds the gravel together when flattened — will be laid on top and compacted to provide a walking surface more stable than the current dirt path, which is often muddied by rain.
The project is scheduled for completion Wednesday, March 6, weather permitting.
Catonsville Rails to Trails has resurfaced other sections of railroad, including the No. 9 Trolley Trail and the No. 8 Streetcar Trail, using asphalt pavement.
The group decided to use crush and run because of its lower cost.
"We're using it for the first time on this trail," said Maureen Sweeney Smith, a Catonsville Rails to Trails co-founder and board member.
To resurface the one-third mile section of the Short Line with crush and run costs $30,000, while paving a one-third mile section of the No. 8 Streetcar Trail with asphalt cost the organization $69,000.
Smith said adding walking paths to the Catonsville area is crucial for fostering social and economic relationships within the community.
"It helps businesses, it helps connect neighborhoods and it gets people out of their cars," she said.
The nonprofit organization repurposes sections of old railroad lines and turns them into walking trails for the community.
"It's having a walkable community that makes a community so much better," Smith said.
In 2006, Catonsville Rails to Trails signed a lease for the Short Line Rail Road, which extends from Mellor Avenue to the Charlestown retirement community on Maiden Choice Lane, according to the group's newsletter.
That gave the nonprofit the right to clear the trail, improve the surface and, in general, make it easier for residents to walk.
A piece of local history
Contractors Christopher Podowski, of Link Contracting, and Bobby Williams, of RLW Services, have been donating time and money to the trails for some time now.
Podowski, a Catonsville resident, has been interested in railroads since his childhood.