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Dr. Alan Lake, of Glen Arm, left, and Sharon and Rick Childs, of Parkville pose for a photo at what will be the start of a new trail at Cromwell Valley Park. They and a committee are trying to open the new trail, Nature Trail for All, that will be handicapped accessible.
Dr. Alan Lake, of Glen Arm, left, and Sharon and Rick Childs, of Parkville pose for a photo at what will be the start of a new trail at Cromwell Valley Park. They and a committee are trying to open the new trail, Nature Trail for All, that will be handicapped accessible. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A decades-long dream for Cromwell Valley Park might be realized next year. Construction is expected to begin within the next three to six months on The Nature Trail for All, a handicapped-accessible trail for people with limited visual, auditory and mobility capacity in the park.

Alan Lake, vice president of the Cromwell Valley Park Council and chair of its building and grounds committee, has been spearheading the project. Lake, a pediatrician and Glen Arm resident, called The Nature Trail for All "a unique program" that consists of an approximately one-half mile trail and five educational kiosks.

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The project is estimated to cost more than $600,000, with $185,000 paying for construction of the trail and the balance for the kiosks. Lake expects the project to be built in stages, starting with the trail and then, as funding becomes available, the kiosks.

"The current trails do not lend themselves to the handicapped," Lake said of the 16 miles of existing hiking trails in the 426-acre Baltimore County park. "The idea is to extend the benefits of the park to everyone."

In designing the Nature Trail, the Park Council asked several disability-related nonprofits for their input, including the Maryland School for the Blind, The Arc Baltimore, and Talmar Gardens and Horticultural Therapy Center. Baltimore County officials also were involved.

"The Nature Trail is intended for the whole community, not necessarily the disabled," said Cate Murphy, founder and executive director of Talmar, which is located in Cromwell Valley Park. "It's not just pushing a wheelchair along the trail. It's more educational than that. Everyone who walks the trial should get a broader sense of nature."

URS Corporation of Timonium designed the Nature Trail at no charge. It will be built on a flat section of land on the former Good Fellowship Farm within the park. The curving two-way trail will have a compact, permeable surface that will allow use by wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. There will be guide ropes and foliage displays for smell and touch along the trail.

Adler Display will design the kiosks. Placed along the trail, each of the small wooden structures will contain a computer that explains the scene it overlooks. The park's ecosystems range from the Piedmont hills and woods to the Minebank stream and wetlands, as well as meadows, natural fields and cultivated fields.

"There is no precedent in this area for the kiosks," Lake said.

State and county environmental agencies have reviewed and approved the Nature Trail. The Park Council also has initial funding for the project, including a $5,000 grant from the Towson Rotary Club to survey the site and a $90,000 open space fee from a developer.

"It's enough to get us started," Lake said of the trail, which will take about a month to build.

County Councilman David Marks, whose Fifth District encompasses Cromwell Valley Park, said that originally, Craftsmen, the developer of Cromwell Ridge, donated the open space fee to build a trail near the Cromwell-Coventry Association.

"The association asked that the fee be directed to the Nature Trail for All," said Marks, whose office facilitated the transaction.

Sharon Childs, a member of the Park Council's Nature Trail committee, has been part of the project since its inception. The impetus for the project came from a disability trail she saw a decade ago in Rock Creek Regional Park, in Montgomery County, Child said.

"That trail was a [Boy Scouts] Eagle Scout project. It was for the handicapped but not specifically for the blind," said Childs, a nurse-practitioner and Parkville resident. "We've developed our own design plan. From the beginning, we wanted to have the ecosystem element."

Lake said a fundraising letter was recently sent to local organizations and businesses. He also is hoping for donations from the public to the nonprofit Park Council for the venture.

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"There are more than 75,000 people in Baltimore County who would benefit from the Nature Trail," he said.

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