Bowie resident honored as WB&A route opens
Nov. 9, 2000
Catherine Hollingsworth
Staff Writer

Don Wright/The Gazette

Morris Warren Saturday holds a replica of the plaque dedicating the WB&A trail in his honor. The plaque will be placed at the entrance to the WB&A trail.

Morris Warren of Bowie was honored Saturday by the county park and planning commission for his 15-year effort to build a new 5.6-mile hiker-biker trail in Prince George's County.

"He is absolutely tireless, and we owe a lot to him," said County Councilwoman Audrey Scott (R-Dist. 4) of Bowie, speaking at a ceremony that kicked off the opening of the trail at the Glenn Dale Community Center.

Even before the $4 million trail officially opened, Scott said it was being heavily used. "That is the true testament of the importance of this trail ... The money is well spent because of the use and the demand of the consumer."

Elizabeth Hewlett, who chairs the Prince George's County Planning Board, said, "I've always been struck by his knowledge, his sincerity and his total dedication to this project." She added, "Mr. Warren has been untiring in his advocacy and in his determination, and today Warren, we applaud you and your success, and we the citizens of Prince George's County will share in your success."

To his surprise, Warren was presented a replica of a plaque dedicating the trail to him. The original plaque will be mounted along the trail. "I wondered what you meant by a dedication," he said. "It was quite a shock."

But Warren came with his own surprise. He thanked Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission officials with a $20,000 check, which he asked to be put toward such amenities as benches and water fountains along the trail.

"I provided a seed, but it took an act of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to grow this embryo into a 6-mile legacy. They wanted it as much as I did."

Warren also credited County Executive Wayne Curry for promoting non-motorized modes of transportation. He also said he was grateful for the support of state leaders and Gov. Parris Glendening, whose "Smart Growth" initiative aims to improve the quality of life in high-growth areas.

While the trail funding came from the federal government, Warren said the state provided the rights of way at "a bargain price."

Warren has been involved in a project to convert old railroad routes into trails. He traveled across the state to research areas that would be ideal for a trail.

The corridor traces the path of the former Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Railroad, which operated until 1935. The trail starts in Glenn Dale, wends its way through Bowie to the Patuxent River and eventually will connect to points in the Baltimore area and Anne Arundel County.

"Now that we've found the way, let's finish the job of building the WB&A on to Annapolis," said Warren, who started bike riding as a form of physical therapy after suffering a heart attack.

A 13-mile portion of the WB&A trail was built about a decade ago between Glen Burnie and West Annapolis. Additional segments are in the works in Anne Arundel County between the Prince George's County line and Annapolis. Plans to have the trail begin in the District are more complicated and are on hold for now.

Local cycling club members who helped aid Warren's efforts came to the ceremony eager to test the new trail.

"This is a marvelous, marvelous day," said Bill Kelly, chairman of the College Park Area Bicycle Coalition, which is working to provide a 72-mile bike route along Route 1.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to have a trail system so extensive that users won't need a car to get to a trail. Commuters could use it to get from their doorstep to the Metro station, for example. "We're building a transportation system here; this is not just a trail."

The WB&A trail will also provide a link to national trails that run coast-to-coast -- the 6,300-mile American Discovery Trail, which starts in San Francisco and ends in Delaware, and the 2,600-mile East Coast Greenway, which goes from Maine to Florida.