Volunteers fight erosion in parkland along river Trail-riding vehicles damage area


Braving the heat, ticks and poison ivy, local environmentalists ventured into the woods yesterday to help stop erosion along the Middle Patuxent River.

Howard County Sierra Club members, joined by nearby residents, reseeded portions of county parkland that have been eroded over the years by bikers and others who use the area at night for trail riding.

Motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles have destroyed vegetation and churned up the topsoil, causing it to be washed away by the river.

The motorists enter the parkland -- north of Gorman Road -- through Kindler Road, which dead-ends at the wooded area. They ride on two right-of-way paths in the parkland that are used by American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and Colonial Pipeline.

The county has used several methods to keep motorists out, including erecting a barrier gate at the parkland's Kindler Road entrance and placing old trees as an obstacle.

But the motorists dismantled the gate. The county then repaired the gate. The motorists responded last week by cutting down trees to create an alternate route, said Susan Polniaszek, of the Sierra Club's county chapter.

"They took down 20 trees to create a whole new path," she said.

"These are beautiful healthy trees," she said, pointing to a tree stump marking the start of the new trail.

The Sierra Club is particularly concerned about the area because motorists have begun to ride on a trail that is the site of an underground oil pipeline owned by Colonial Pipeline. Club members fear that continued erosion of the trail will expose the pipeline.

"You're going to get a vehicle that will rupture the line, and there could be a massive oil leak," Mrs. Polniaszek said.

The Sierra Club has been working on the area every other weekend since February, clearing debris, including old appliances, 10 deer carcasses (they suspect bikers hunt there, too) and enough beer cans to fill a pickup truck.

Yesterday, the 14-member crew seeded some of the eroded areas with special erosion control seeds that sprout in the summer.

Leslie Englehart, a Sierra Club member from Dayton, came out to help because, she said, she "got to the point of feeling too guilty about doing nothing about the environment."

Stephen and Susan Miceli said they joined the erosion-control project because they live near the parkland and enjoy outings in the woods.

"And it's good exercise," Mr. Miceli said.

Although bikers have raced on the parkland for years, they have become especially brazen in the past two years, Mrs. Polniaszek said.

Residents say they call police when they are aware the bikers are there, but by the time police respond the trespassers are gone.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation donated $900 toward the erosion-control effort, and Colonial Pipeline, a Georgia company that owns the underground pipeline in the park, donated $500.

In addition, AT&T; reseeded its right of way to help stop erosion and installed its own gate to prevent trespassing.

"A lot more money is going to be needed to keep these guys off of the area, but the county doesn't have any money for enforcement," Mrs.Polniaszek said.

The Sierra Club hopes to create some nature trails in the parkland, which has a variety of wildlife, including foxes, deer, beavers and blue herons.

"There's beautiful wildlife down here," Mrs. Polniaszek said. "People don't have to go out to Western Maryland to see pristine nTC areas."

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