(First appeared in The Equiery May 2011)

County Updates & News
Bacon Ridge Trail Assessment
Bacon Ridge natural resource area in Anne Arundel County is being studied for appropriate recreational uses. Locals have ridden the trails there for many years, but that doesn’t mean the privilege will continue under this new focus. It is very important that equestrians in Anne Arundel become involved with the future of this resource. Please write and participate in the meetings of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area Stewardship Committee (and ask to get on their email list). Unfortunately, you do have to contact them the old-fashioned way:

Bacon Ridge Natural Area Stewardship Committee
1 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401

For additional information contact Diane Ayers, TROT’s Anne Arundel Co. coordinator. Her contact information can be found on the TROT website at http://www.trot-md.org/.
– contributed by Ron MacNab

Beach Riding in Queen Anne’s County
Royce Herman and Joyce Bell of the Tuckahoe Equestrian Center have spearheaded a new equestrian trail at the Conquest Preserve in Queen Anne’s County. This will be the county’s second equestrian trail and when complete, the riding path will be more than 10 miles. The project is being run under the Queen Anne’s County Parks & Recreation department and has already begun.

Herman said that a few drainage area crossings have been made more sustainable and other construction on the trail is underway. The building is a several year project. “The area is heavy in wetlands and we are insisting that the trail be done in a sustainable manor,” he added. The plan for the multi-use trail will have beach access. Herman is looking into obtaining grant money and the possibility of forming a 501c3 organization to help solicit the necessary funds for the project.

Seneca Creek Trail
Towards the end of May, Maryland equestrians will have an impressive new 20+-mile network of trails in Montgomery County, linking Black Hill Park to the C&O Canal. The system will include Seneca Creek State Park’s expanded natural surface, multi-use trail system. Currently being completed is the link between Black Rock Road and Schaeffer Farm Park. The finished network will include the following trails: Black Hills Park, Hoyles Mill Trail, Seneca State Park (from Schaefer Farm Park to the C&O Canal). It also links to the Dry Seneca Trail, which goes nearly to White’s Ferry Road.

Establishing this trail network is quite an accomplishment, as it required cooperation from three different government agencies: U. S. Park Services, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland-National Capital Parks & Planning Commission. Many thanks to Dave Magill and volunteers at MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) for leading this effort. MORE and TROT have donated funds to build the requisite bridges needed to complete the trail.
– contributed by Ron MacNab

Bensen Branch Park
Bensen Branch on Folly Quarter Road is a landlocked park in Howard County. It is a great place to ride for those adjacent to the park, but inaccessible to all others. Through the efforts of Pat Oliva, Howard County Coordinator for TROT, Howard County Parks has agreed to build a driveway and gravel parking lot, large enough for a couple of trailers.
– contributed by Ron MacNab

Caroline County Country Roads Update
Due to massive budget cuts in Caroline County, development of a system of trails linking the 81 miles of dirt roads throughout the county has stopped. Or rather, was never actually started. An unofficial task force met on June 30, 2008 to come up with ideas on how the county could use these roads to bring tourism and equestrian sporting opportunities into the county.

Suggestions were listed in the May 2009 issue of The Equiery and are summarized as follows: endurance ride competitions, combined driving competitions, trail riding, youth shows, and more. Rick Barton, who at the time was a Caroline County Administrator, recently reported that the project is dead in the water. But thankfully, due to the same budget cuts, those dirt roads have not been paved either and thus the project could still be developed in the future. “The 4-H and Youth Park is still functional and continues to host equestrian events, and all the pieces of the project are still in place,” Barton said.

Rails to Trails at Tuckahoe
The Tuckahoe Equestrian Center is hoping to expand its current trails system to link up with the Rails to Trails that already runs through the Tuckahoe State Park. This would be a long-term project and thus TEC is looking into long-term grant money as well.

In other TEC news, the famed Outlaw Days will not be held this year. Royce Herman of TEC simply put it as “our volunteers just got a little burned out.” After 15 years of putting on the Old West-style show weekend, the crew just needs a bit of a break. Outlaw Days may be revived in the future but for now, those days are done.

New Frederick County Park
The Catoctin Creek and Nature Park was opened on February 17. There are plans for future trails to be made throughout the 139-acre park, but none have begun yet.

Maryland Trails Summits
by Ron MacNab

In May and June of 2010, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources held trail meetings in four different regions of Maryland (central, western, eastern and southern). The purpose of the meetings, or round table discussion, was to gather feedback from the community. As a result, DNR was able to
• Identify the gaps in the existing trail network.
• Prioritize the trails in each region and goals that can be accomplished.
• Identify one policy change that would assist in reaching the goal of a
statewide trail system “second to none.”

The meetings were well attended by diverse groups who support the creation and maintenance of trails, including but not limited to hiking, biking, equestrian, Audubon, conservationists and naturalist enthusiasts. Myself and TROT County Coordinators were the only equestrians I noticed, except for one stable owner who operates a stable in the middle of a state park in western Maryland. Each group identified gaps in the existing trail systems. Although there was general consensus in each session on the priorities, DNR needed to further study the suggestions before being able to set priorities.
On March 19, 2010, DNR hosted a state-wide Maryland Trails Summit in order to synthesize and analyze all the data gathered from the regional meetings.

There were many suggestions regarding policy changes that would provide the greatest benefit. Suggestions went from grants to website services. In my opinion, the best proposed policy was to establish an office that would oversee all the trail systems in Maryland, rather than by the existing, park-by-park basis, with little or no involvement and integration with county trail systems. A newly created office of trails would be able to study one or the other Maryland trail systems as a whole, which would, ideally, lead to a comprehensive plan to connect as many of our trails as possible with each other. That would be a landmark achievement.

For more information on the Summits and the recommendations, visit: http://dnr.maryland.gov/land/md_trails/firsttrailssummit.asp

WANTED: Your GPS Trail Maps! 
The Department of Natural Resources is putting together a Maryland Trails Atlas and they need your help! The idea sprang from one of the sessions at the Maryland Trails Summit. DNR is asking each county in Maryland to provide them with their trail information. TROT is currently sending DNR GPS information as well.

The atlas is an online resource that allows users to search by address or county. One simply enters their address or county and all the trails close to that location pop up on the screen. Users can even bookmark their favorite trail locations. Maps can be viewed as a satellite image, street map or overview with just county borders.

Celebrating the Star-Spangled Banner
In 2012, the U.S. will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812. War was declared by the U.S. against the British in June of 1812 and lasted until February 1815. To recognize this important period in U.S. history, the National Parks Service is developing the new Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, of which 90% is in Maryland. This trail tracks the movements of British and U.S. troops throughout the war with stops at various historic locations in the state.

On specific dates over the next four years, some locations will host living history demonstrations. The Maryland Light Dragoons, a re-enactment group specializing in the War of 1812 Maryland Militia Cavalry, is looking into partnering with the National Park Service, Maryland Horse Council and the Maryland Horse Industry Board to bring to life the history of cavalry horses during the war at one of these sites. Plans are still in the works! If you would like to join in, please contact Michael Bosworth of the Maryland Light Dragoons at 703-864-4174 or Michael.bosworth@mac.com.

From Trail Grants to Building

In 2006 a group of trail and open space enthusiasts lead by Austin Steo created the Trail Conservancy, Inc. to help link trail grant projects with the actual building and completion of trail projects. Rick Barton, TCI president, said, “It seemed like there was a gap in service between the government and state grants and the contractors needed to build the trails.” The group was formed to help fill in those gaps and help trail groups complete their projects. “We help link grants to actual on-the-ground work,” Barton added.

Because TCI is a nonprofit organization, they can help raise more funds than government/state grants could possibly give trail groups. “These funds go directly to trail building and maintenance within the parks, not to the park in general, thus there is no watered-down effect of these funds,” said Steo.

Steo describes the group as “work for hire,” in a way. TCI works on many levels including consulting, fund-raising, organizing volunteers and hiring contractors. Groups that work to preserve trails and open space (trail organization, park staff, hunt club, etc.) just need to call TCI to coordinate their efforts. Current projects include rehabilitating and rerouting some of the trails in Little Bennett Regional Park in Montgomery County as well as some work at Cosca Regional Park in Prince George’s County. TCI was also involved with recent riding trail work at Seneca Creek Park.


Congressional “Ride-In”
The American Horse Council is organizing a “Congressional Ride-In” in conjunction with its annual meeting in Washington, DC. On June 22, members of the horse community can sit down with their elected representatives and their federal officials to discuss important issues. The AHC will conduct a free briefing for participants. Anyone wishing to participate should contact AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass at 202-296-4031 or bpendergrass@horsecouncil.org.

Maryland Horses Dominate Tevis
Several Maryland horses made the cross country trip to California for the 2010 Tevis ride, a 55-year-old endurance competition. Read competitor Claire Godwin’s account of how each horse placed on the “Archives” of equiery.com.

Many thanks to Ron MacNab for his help in compiling information for this trails news feature. Ron is the chairman of the Maryland Horse Council Trails & Greenways Committee (an umbrella for all the trail riding organizations and land-use interests in the state) and the president of Trail Riders of Today, the largest trail riding organization in Maryland. If you have an issue or a concern about a trail or park system that you use, please contact Ron, as he is representing your interests on two state-wide organizations. His e-mail is rmacnab@comcast.net.