Sheldon Smith, president of Catonsville Rails to Trails (CRTT), noticed that the use of trails in Catonsville had increased since the pandemic began.
Next month, the nonprofit organization that provides citizens the opportunity to safely bike and walk will undertake the “Catonsville Cycling Connection,” a project that will transform a 136-year-old railroad line into a 2½-mile biking and hiking trail extending from Mellor Avenue to a vacant lot near Bill’s Music House in the 700 block of Catonsville.
The aim of the project is to construct a boardwalk along a portion of the Catonsville Valley Heritage Trail, which is located in the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area.
The project is one of four in the heritage area to receive a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA), an organization that supports the well-being of local communities by promoting, sustaining and creating place-based experiences for visitors and residents, according to its website.
Distributing $367,715 to local jurisdictions and nonprofits, the grant is meant to support heritage tourism projects and activities that draw visitors and expand economic development and tourism-related opportunities in the Patapsco Valley.
Patapsco Heritage Greenway, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as being“dedicated to preserving, protecting, interpreting and restoring the environment, history and culture of the Patapsco River,” received a management grant for $100,000, a block grant for $25,000 and a marketing grant for $12,715.
Victoria Goodman, who is on the board of directors and chair of the marketing committee of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, said the marketing grant will be used to raise awareness of the history of the area.
“The environment and outdoor recreation is a big part of how we understand the history of our area and the different communities within the area,” she said.
The grant funds projects within the heritage area, which includes Baltimore and Howard counties.
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The projects funded include “Enhancing the Park Experiences Through Bilingual Interpreters” at the Chesapeake Conservancy; “Simpkins Industry Site, Park Infrastructure” at the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park; “Carriage House Adaptive Reuse” at the Howard County Conservancy, and “Festival del Rio Patapsco” at Patapsco Heritage Greenway.
CRTT received $50,000 toward its goal of $100,000. The remaining funds will be raised through donations and private grants, Smith said.
In a given year, the organization has 75 to 100 donors, he said, adding, “Those little, tiny donations add up and help us maintain the trail.”
Those who donated include the Catonsville Rotary Club, the Catonsville Women’s Giving Circle, the Lions Club of Catonsville and the Mountain Club of Maryland.
The project will be done in phases and is expected to be finished sometime next spring.