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Most of the work on the connection between the Gateway condominiums and the Ma & Pa Trail in Bel Air is complete. Some trees that were removed still need to be replaced once additional storm drain work is finished.
Most of the work on the connection between the Gateway condominiums and the Ma & Pa Trail in Bel Air is complete. Some trees that were removed still need to be replaced once additional storm drain work is finished. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

The switchback trail is one of several projects along the popular trail, which also include the connection between the two sections and replacement of the decking on some bridges.

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A condition of the Town of Bel Air’s approval of the condominium was that the developer connect the neighborhood to the trail.

Because of the topography, the only way to do it was to create the switchbacks — the connection crisscrosses the slope four times, with retaining walls along parts of it.

As of last weekend, 36 of the 45 trees were planted as part of the reforestation of the area. The rest will be planted once additional storm drain work is finished, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for Harford County government, said.

The developer of the condominium project is paying for the connection.

Harford County owns the trail and part of the land where the trees were removed; all of the trail in that area is within Bel Air town limits.

“As the developer has moved forward, the town and county have been co-partners in reviewing the work they’re doing and making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Kevin Small, director of planning for Bel Air, said.

He and Paul Magness, the county’s deputy director of parks and recreation, expect to go walk the connection as early as next week to see if any handrails are needed.

Trail connection

The shortest but most complicated phase of the 2.5-mile section that will connect the portion of the trail from Annie’s Playground to Williams Street in Bel Air with the section from East Jarrettsville Road in Friends Park to Melrose Lane at Blake’s Venture, is complete, Mumby said.

It includes a crossing on Main Street in front of Independent Brewing Company to the east side of Main Street, where the trail will continue north and east to Blake’s Venture, and a center island and warning lights.

The trail will be 7.5 miles when it’s finished.

A contract to complete the second phase — the portion from Main Street to North Parke Avenue, is expected to be put out to bid in three to six months, Mumby said. The third segment, from North Parke to Blake’s Venture, is scheduled to go to bid at the end of 2020 or in spring 2021.

“We’re being conservative with our estimate of total completion by spring 2022,” Mumby said. “We are working as quickly as we can.”

State permits have to be approved and requirements must be followed to obtain federal funding for the project.

“We are very interested in getting this completed as quickly as possible because this has been an important project for many years,” Mumby said. “It’s near and dear to the heart of the county executive and the people who live here. When it’s completed it will be a unique rail trail following portions of the Ma & Pa Railroad.”

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It will take hikers, bikers, walkers and runners from Fallston, through downtown Bel Air and up to Forest Hill.

“We expect the trail to be a boon to economic development and also attract visitors to Harford County and become an even more cherished asset to our community,” Mumby said.

Decking replaced

In September, the decking of the bridge north of the Tollgate Road trailhead and near the bypass was replaced, at a cost of $5,592, with enough boards left over to replace part of the decking on the bridge near the Liriodendron spur, which cost $2,128, Mumby said.

Both bridges date to 1999, she said.

The deck replacement of the bridge at the spur and of the three bridges on the Forest Hill section of the trail will be done in phases.

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