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Washington Road trails in Westminster a hidden treasure

Washington Road trails in Westminster a hidden treasure
Flanked by wild mustard on her right and Route 97 up to her left, Washington Road Community Trail organizer Sylvia Supton strolls along the trail on a blustery, spring afternoon. (Photo by Phil Grout)

There is a peaceful atmosphere walking along the Washington Road Community Trail, despite the continual rumble of traffic.

A section of the wide, mowed trail rambles along behind the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, as well as Westminster High School before plunging into a wooded area that blocks buildings from view and also shields walkers from the ever-busy Route 97 to the east and Route 32 to the west.

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To keep from getting lost, some 92 bluebird houses serve as markers along the trail, with arrows pointing the trail's direction painted on their sides.

Ten bat houses can also be spotted along the trail, though they have yet to attract any residents, according to those who maintain the trail.

Created in 1994, the WRC Trail was initially designed as a nature fitness path from the Y of Central Maryland to Robert Moton Elementary School.

It fell into disuse with the demise of its care-taking group. New buildings, including the Gateway School and an expansion at Carroll Community College, also altered the trail.

It was never completely forgotten, however. Rob Schilling, a teacher at The Gateway School and now chairman of the WRC Trail board, has worked hard to bring the trail back into the limelight. He recruited students from his classes to make more bluebird boxes and to help with trail maintenance.

Last summer, Silvia Supton joined the cause, and the overall 3.26-mile trail celebrated a "reopening."

Now, the goal is to get more people to use it and keep it maintained. To do that, the WRC is hosting a Benefit 5k race and walk on Saturday, April 21 at 9 a.m.

Funds collected from the entry fees will be used to buy tools and other supplies, and possibly material for a shed, to store everything.

"We're hoping to get about 50 people," Supton said. "We would be very happy with that."

The trail is getting more use these days, a phenomenon that pleases its advocates. Another fundraising run was scheduled for April 14 by CHANGE Inc. In addition, Carroll Community College is also planning a "zombie run" at the end of its term.

"I walked around with the group and they had all sorts of ideas about body parts," Schilling said of the planned zombie run. "I warned them to put signs up and warn the police department."

Schilling also would like to see other local schools become more involved by studying the ecological aspects surrounding the trail.

"There is all sorts of learning," Schilling said of the trail and its assets. "It's fun. We're happy to see them (students) to come."

Open from dawn to dusk, the trail is a mixture of grass and pavement as it winds around buildings and along roads.

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There are three "legs" (see map, facing page) — a northern loop near Westminster High School; a middle loop near Robert Moton Elementary and the Gatway School, which includes a labyrinth; and a southern section that bridges from Carroll Community College to the Y of Central Maryland property.

Anyone is welcome to use it and anyone is welcome to help maintain it, from picking up trash to helping remove evasive, nonnative plants and trees.

"Most people don't know it exists," Supton said of the trail. "We're hoping to get the word out."

Hit the trail

The Washington Road Community Trail benefit 5k race and 1-mile walk will be held Saturday, April 21, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Community Media Center, 1301 Washington Road, Westminster. The cost is $15 and the registration deadline is April 19.

Proceeds will benefit the Washington Road Community Trail. Register online at http://www.active.com/running/westminster-md/wrc-trail-5k-1m-fundraiser-2012.

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