Catonsville Rails to Trails carves a path of work, advocacy for 2018

Rails to Trails, the Catonsville nonprofit that is helping to turn historic railroad rights of way into walking and biking paths, made progress on multiple sections of trails in 2017.

In 2018, its task will be to “connect the dots,” said Sheldon Smith, the organization’s vice president.

“For the most part, the [Short Line] Trail is built out,” Smith said. “The big thing now is just to maintain it and do some additional connections.”

One major ongoing connection the group will work on in 2018 will be a ramp that will take people from Mellor Avenue east up a steep hill to cross Bloomsbury Avenue.

The ramp was last estimated to cost between $400,000 and $500,000. The project would be state-funded, Smith said. The state would give the county the grant and then Rails to Trails would manage the project, he said.

The ramp, Smith said, will likely be done in two to four years.

One project he said is expected to be complete in 2018 is a series of access ramps to playing fields near the Mellor Avenue section of the Short Line trail. The group installed one in November, and plans to install another in 2018.

The group, Smith said, also plans to install exercise equipment, such as pull-up bars, along the trail.

Smith said Catonsville residents can look forward to seeing the group’s annual events again in 2018.

He said they will hold a spring cleanup on the east side of the Short Line Trail in March. Then in the fall, the group will hold its annual Fall Festivus, the main fundraiser of the year.

“One thing people don’t realize, it costs money to build these trails, and then to maintain them,” Smith said. “We spent about $300,000 building the trails.” Most of the group’s fundraising, he said, comes from the Fall Festivus, which he said drew thousands last year.

Outside of their work on trails, Smith said the group will also focus on their bicycle advocacy work in 2018.

“We’re always pushing for additional bike lanes,” Smith said.

The use of trails has been steadily growing across the country, according to reports cited by the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

An estimated 12 percent of trips in the county are done on foot or bike, the advocacy group said, and commuting by bike has increased almost 40 percent in the past 10 years.

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