Students trying to cut across from the Prospect Mill Road area east of Bel Air to Harford Community College, as well as general nature-lovers, have two men to thank for a new place to walk.
Ronnie Walls and Eric Cook have been busy carving out a walking trail through the woods to connect the areas around two traffic circles, one at Prospect Mill Road and Wagner Farm Court, and the other on Thomas Run Road.
Walls and Cook planned to have a formal unveiling of the new trail on Friday morning.
"I have just seen so many kids try to walk or ride a bike on Prospect Mill. It's ridiculous," Walls, who lives in the neighborhood, said Wednesday.
About seven years ago, Walls began trying to talk with any possible stakeholders who might want to build, or let him build, a more formal trail through the roughly one-mile area along the Thomas Run stream.
Almost the entire area is owned by Harford Community College, he said.
Walls originally tried to talk to then-HCC President Jim LaCalle, who Walls said wasn't interested. Current HCC President Dennis Golladay, who replaced LaCalle in the summer of 2010, thought it would be a nice idea to have students get to college via a trail, Walls said.
The route of the trail was moved slightly south to accommodate HCC's new Towson University building, for which ground was broken Thursday afternoon.
After getting the go-ahead from the college, as well as the county's parks and recreation department, which owned a right-of-way, Walls and Cook began clearing the trail.
Cook did most of the trailblazing, as he had retired from the forest service and had built bridges in the past, Walls said.
Three bridges will also eventually be built by Eagle Scouts over streams along the scenic route, he said.
"It's actually beautiful," Walls said about the path. He said the 60-some people who have already toured it have been excited about its natural beauty and unique features.
People continue to discover the cut-through on their own.
Walls said he saw 20 students from a Wellness Walking class at Harford Technical High School walk across the other day and were pointing out every little thing along the trail.
"Different people find different things to look at, especially when ecology professors are involved," he said.
"There's a couple of scenic overlooks," he added." Most of it is mature woods."
Walls said he is also interested to see what the college does with some of that woods, because part of it is wetlands and streams.
The path has no official title, unlike the county-run and state-run trails in the area, such as the Ma & Pa Trail.
Eventually, Walls wants to have more formal signs and perhaps a more official designation for the path.
For now, though, Walls has given it a more open-ended, and perhaps welcoming, name: the Harford Community Trail.