He said he was fascinated with the Short Line's story.

"Catonsville was a substantial part of the railroad," Podowski said.

"A lot of people that lived in the city, that had the money, used to come out here and they kind of made this their summer home area, from my understanding," he said. "And the railroad used to bring them out here."

He said he has been working with Rails to Trails for more than two years.

"My wife knew Maureen and we happened to see Maureen working there one day and that's how I got involved," Podowski said.

"We stopped by and asked her what she was doing and she explained it to us," he said.

Once he heard about the mission of Rails to Trails, Podowski was hooked.

He started as a volunteer, then gradually found himself donating the time and resources from his Catonsville-based contracting company.

"I started donating time and my machine (a Bobcat) sometimes on the weekends once in a while to help them a little more," Podowski said.

Sweeney Smith said Podowski said the words any volunteer who has spent hours clearing trails loves to hear.

"He said, 'I have a chain saw and I'm willing to volunteer,' " she said.

"Once they saw how much work they could get done with a Bobcat skid loader, they really started pursuing me doing it more," Podowski said.

Podowski said he is looking forward to taking his 2-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter out on the trails in the future.

"When they get older, we can take them down there to ride their bikes and stuff. It's a nice place for them to play, kind of not near the street," he said.

A government partnership

Rails to Trails receives most of its funding from federal and state grants.

The current resurfacing project, for example, is funded by a $30,000 grant from the State Highway Administration

Smith attributes much of the group's recent success in obtaining that money to Baltimore County's increased emphasis on decreasing the need for motorized vehicles to get around a community.

"The fact that we've been able to really take off recently is (because of) the county's attitudes toward trails, more funding being made available and (1st District Councilman) Tom Quirk being in office," Smith said.

Quirk, a Catonsville resident who was recently elected chairman of the County Council, has been instrumental in giving the 14-year-old organization the assistance it needed to get serious about their projects, starting in 2010, Smith said.

Once the Chertkof family, previous owners of the Caton and Louden Railroad that includes the Short Line Trail, signed the property over to CRTT, Quirk helped the nonprofit create a lease agreement for the property and business partnership with Baltimore County to speed up the repurposing process.

"He has been a huge advocate for us," Smith said.