A letter to the editor from Equiery reader Wendy Emblin of Sykesville; readers may post comments below, or email them to editor@equiery.com or snail mail them to P.O. Box 610 Lisbon, MD 21765

I expect the readers are aware that–now that the recession and winter seem to be behind us–the developers are going mad and houses are springing up everywhere, particularly along Route 32 in Howard County, MD.

I want to make people aware that there is a new subdivision still at the planning stage called Walker Meadows, which is adjacent to the McKeldin North area of the Patapsco Park. Walker Meadows is causing the local residents much concern for multiple reasons.

One hundred acres which we thought were tiered for three-acre lots, 23 houses allowed, are now designated as another (Rural Residential) with cluster homes on one-acre lots and by buying lots from western Maryland, 35 houses have been requested! This was the maximum of positive percs  (47 being the original request!). This will put a great burden on the roads, schools, water, sewage and other amenities in the area.

Their idea is to have two clusters with a main preservation area between (it is a wetland area so cannot be built upon). My greatest concern is that this development has three trails leading from it to the park and several local residents have ridden, walked or cycled them for 20-30 years and that at least two of these trails might become extinct if we cannot readily access the park. We have asked for a legal trail or easement across or around this new development going from Howard Lodge Drive to the park. So far everyone from the attorney working for the family to the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) have said we will have to work with the developers! Unfortunately this doesn’t always work in favor of those not holding the purse strings and we fear it will not happen and it will get lost on the way if not designated on the plans!

I am trying to spread the word that this easement would be beneficial for the local community (and an amenity to the new development, park access!) There is also a safety aspect involved here as the only other access is by a busy, narrow, slippery road with bad visibility due to hilly terrain. I have spoken with League of Maryland Horsemen (LOMH), Trail Riders Of Today (TROT), Maryland Horse Council (MHC), Parks and Recs and Mid–Atlantic Offroad Enthusiasts (MORE).

With a TROT friend I had a tour by car of the extensive network of subdivisions with easements (both Equestrian and Public Access) of the Ashton/Sandy Spring/Olney area and found out that  for at least a decade Montgomery County DPZ has planned for easements when subdividing land; Naomi Manders fought extremely hard to get this process in place for which Montgomery County residents and equestrians are grateful.

TROT and local residents are fighting to get this same process in place in Howard County by emailing Alan Kittleman (akittleman@howardcountymd.gov) with CC to DPZ director (vlazdins@howardcountymd.gov) and director of Parks and Recreation (jbyrd@howardcountymd.gov) to get multi-use (Public Use) easements in place at the planning stage of developments, starting with Walker Meadows. If you send an email, please copy Pat Oliva, who is the Howard County TROT officer (patolivatigger@aol.com), so we can see any support given. You don’t have to be a Howard County resident nor do you need to be an equestrian – just someone who enjoys trails. You can contact  Pat or me (emblin@aol.com) for updates/info or any other questions. Pat has extensive knowledge in building, maintaining and riding trails and has a working relationship with many different factions of the horse community but sometimes it takes a village or more to get the required results!

By perusing the statistics for the two counties (Howard and Montgomery), the area/capita are approximately the same and so are house prices, but Howard County is far behind in the numbers of trails per capita compared to Montgomery County (and also behind Prince George’s County) and loses some when land is developed by not having a way to retain them legally. Both counties are experiencing rapid housing growth as we are so close to DC, but the parks and amenities for horse people in Montgomery are way better than Howard. Please help us fight the bureaucracy in order to retain existing trails; we cannot afford to lose any more. Already some have been lost and I fear more might be if they go ahead and increase the number of houses being built at the suggested rate for Western Howard County future developments.

Cross-training is necessary for fit, sane horses (and riders)! Keep our trails, please.