A $55,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation will advance a feasibility study for the proposed Freedom Area Trail Network in Sykesville and Eldersburg.
This week Jeff Degitz, administrator of Carroll County's Department of Recreation and Parks, said he's documenting the tasks and timeline that'll be needed to study the walking and biking trail.
"It's long overdue," Degitz said of the proposed trail, which would connect parts of Eldersburg and Sykesville.
"We need more projects like this," he said. "We know it will be heavily used."
The grant was part of a package of statewide awards from the Maryland Bikeways Program. The $55,000 reimbursable grant will fund a Freedom Area Trail Network Assessment and Design study.
On Aug. 9, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the acceptance of the grant.
The Freedom Area Trail has already been the subject of several community meetings to gauge public support and gather input — which in turn was used in the grant application process.
Degitz said another community meeting will likely be held in September or October.
"We haven't set a date yet, but we don't want to lose that momentum," he said. "We've had a lot of good input from the community."
County officials said the grant will provide support to efforts of Carroll County Planning, Land Use and Development and the county Recreation and Parks Department as they work toward development of the trail.
As a condition of the grant approval, Carroll County will provide a match of $35,000 in staff time and in-kind services.
Degitz said a preliminary plan for the trail calls for it to reach between MacBeth Way in Eldersburg — on the south side of Liberty Road — to Freedom Park, traversing the area of the state-owned Springfield Hospital Center.
Legs off the trail would also connect to the Town of Sykesville via an existing path that goes under Route 32 in the area of the Warfield Cultural and Commerce Center, and also to the Slacks Road area on the east side of Springfield.
But those plans, Degitz said, are only preliminary in nature. "We don't know for a fact where it's going," he said.
He said a hefty chunk of the grant will go toward engineering review of the general path to determine if topography, stream crossings and other factors make it feasible.
He said part of the route would likely utilize existing trails and pavements, but there would certainly be "gaps" where additional sidewalks or trails would have to be added to complete the link..
County Commissioner Doug Howard, who represents the 5th District, which includes Sykesville and Eldersburg, said in a statement that, "As a result of the efforts of staff working with the community, the state and all related and interested parties, this project is moving forward. I hope that at the conclusion of this study Freedom will have a plan for a trail that will add value as well as enjoyment to the residents of the Freedom District."
Degitz said conditions of the grant require that the study be conducted within two years, but "we hope to be done well before that," he said.
But the grant can't be used for construction costs, he said.
Currently, there's no estimate of what the overall trail could cost, but Degitz said there will be other opportunities to apply for state grants for that as well, once other aspects are finalized.
For more information on the project, contact Jeff Degitz in the Department of Recreation and Parks, at 410-386-2103 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.