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Patapsco Heritage Greenway to host daylong workshop on trails and economic development

Lindsey Baker, executive director of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, at Patapsco State Park Tue., April 30, 2019.
Lindsey Baker, executive director of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, at Patapsco State Park Tue., April 30, 2019.(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway wasn’t planning to host a trails workshop until next year. But then, said executive director Lindsey Baker, during its annual summit in March, everybody talked about trails.

“I think [we had] four different discussions, and every group, no matter what they were ‘supposed to’ be talking about, talked about trails and their connected-ness in the valley,” Baker said.

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To that end, her organization will be leading a one-day workshop June 11 to focus on the idea of trails as a source of economic development, she said.

Trail connections are “at the top of the list of needs for the Patapsco Valley,” Baker said.

The ability to get from one area of the valley without having to take a major road was an important topic, she noted. As an example, she mentioned the Guinness brewery in Halethorpe. It’s a major draw, and it would be great to develop trail connections so visitors could travel to the brewery without having to get in their vehicle.

Jon Merryman, 56, estimates he's removed over 5,000 tires and spent thousands of hours cleaning debris since he started spending his time in the valley about 10 years ago.

“I was really struck by the idea of bringing together different stakeholders to have conversations about the importance of trails and the impact of trails, besides the normal idea of, ‘Well, I get to go out, I get to enjoy nature,’” Baker said, adding that she’s hoping to discuss tourism and economic development surrounding trails.

The June 11 workshop is free and open to the public, though registration is required online. The workshop is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

Presentations will focus on the impact of trails, potential funding for trails and trail building. Lunch will be provided by Little Market Cafe. Speakers are scheduled to include Patrick Wojahn, of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Doug Reigner, of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, Aaron Marcavitch, of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, and a representative from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

Parts of the Patapsco Valley State Park were severely damaged by flooding last May. The popular Grist Mill Trail, which runs along the Patapsco River on the Baltimore County side, was almost entirely washed out.

Local legislators who toured the damaged park shortly after the flooding last year called the damage “extensive” and said rebuilding would require “a lot” of capital resources. Park officials have not released a cost estimate for repairing the trails, but said it would involve “technical” work, like repairing tunnels and bridges.

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Now, parts of the trail have been reopened, according to park officials.

Officials said the Grist Mill Trail, north of the Lost Lake area of the park, has since reopened. The continued work on the Bloede Dam removal project may continue to close some trails temporarily.

Work remains to be completed, and parts of the Grist Mill Trail are washed out. Officials also warned the trail now has some stream crossings, which can be dangerous in flash-flood conditions.

“We are hopeful that the trails will all reopen, but we are also sensitive to the fact that the park is doing the best they can do,” Baker said.

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