Supporters of a 10-mile-long, off-road trail through western Anne Arundel urged the County Council last night to move forward with the project more quickly than proposed by County Executive John G. Gary.
In his $89.7 million capital spending plan, Mr. Gary has budgeted $226,000 to acquire additional land for the West County Trail, a hiker-biker path that would follow the old WB&A; Railroad bed south from Odenton to the Patuxent River, where it would connect with a similar path in Prince George's County. The entire project is expected to cost $5.3 million over the next five years.
During a hearing at Old Mill High School on Mr. Gary's spending proposals, including his $733.2 million operating budget, supporters of the 66-foot-wide path urged the council to approve construction of a bridge across the Little Patuxent River as well.
"I would urge you to do this because you get a bigger bang for your buck with these kinds of parks," said Chip Walsh of Gambrills, who added that he expects one day to ride the West County Trail to his job in Landover.
The West County Trail "is the last segment needed for Maryland to boast that it has an off-road trail from Cumberland to [the Eastern Shore]," said Harry Cyphers, an Odenton resident and Maryland coordinator for the America Discovery Trail.
Robert Jacob Meyers, who lives along the WB&A; right of way, opposed the project, saying he fears it will bring public nuisances to his remote neighborhood. "I'm sorry I can't agree with the gleeful property confiscators," he said.
Although trail supporters dominated the hearing, other county residents voiced concerns ranging from plans for an adult softball complex in Glen Burnie to programs for the elderly and the mentally retarded.
Tom O'Hara of Pasadena said he would like to see the county begin planning a softball complex on county-owned property on Ordnance Road adjacent to the county's proposed minimum-security jail. Mr. Gary has said he favors the project, but did not include money in the budget.
Karen Martin, director of the Pets On Wheels program, which provides companionship for elderly nursing home residents, asked the council to restore cuts made to the program's budget over the last three years. In 1991, the program received $55,000; Mr. Gary has earmarked $12,500 for the program this year.
George S. Harman of Pasadena opposed a proposed 13.5 percent increase in sewer and water rates. "These increases . . . they are going to bankrupt us," he said. "It's getting to the point where we can't even live comfortably in Anne Arundel County."
After the meeting, council members said they had expected more residents to turn out for the public hearing. They said they have received numerous letters and telephone calls about Mr. Gary's proposals to create new positions on his staff and raise salaries of some top aides and department heads.
A hearing is set for 7:30 p.m. today at Old Mill High on the proposed budget for the Board of Education. Mr. Gary has earmarked $417.1 million -- 57 percent of his operating budget -- for the county's 116 public schools. He also has proposed spending $25 million on new school construction.