Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Bridge will replace Hoyles Mill Trail ford

Few of the crossings left in the county

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A pedestrian footbridge is being constructed over a ford through Little Seneca Creek in Boyds, one of only a handful of the crossings remaining in the county.

A portion of the Hoyles Mill Trail, a popular 6.3-mile equestrian, hiking and biking path, will be closed until mid-November while the 70-foot-long steel bridge with timber decking is built, according to project manager Andy Frank. The $330,000 trail master plan project will also include stream restoration measures.

The trail, which runs from Black Hill Regional Park to Seneca Creek State Park, currently dead-ends at the stream and picks up again at the other bank. Planks have been nailed to a fallen tree spanning the stream about 50 yards from the ford, Frank said, indicating that travelers have already been finding alternate ways to cross.

"It's a really pristine area compared to other areas of the county," Frank said. "It's not Colorado, but it's nice."

Fords are natural low points in rivers or streams that can be safely crossed by vehicles, animals or people, and were once common, but have been replaced by bridges, according to the Parks Department.

There are five known fords left in the county, including the Hoyles Mill crossing — two vehicle fords through Little Bennett Creek in Hyattstown on Prescott and Hyattstown Mill roads, a vehicle ford on West Old Baltimore Road through Ten Mile Creek in Boyds and a bicycle ford through Sligo Creek, according to Jamie Kuhns, a parks historian. The two Hyattstown fords were closed more than 12 years ago, and the streets were abandoned and became parks roads, according to the county's Rustic Roads Functional Master Plan. The Ten Mile Creek ford is still open.

"There have been few requests, if any, to build a bridge there," Sarah Navid, coordinator of the county's rustic roads program, said of the West Old Baltimore ford, adding that that may change as Clarksburg develops. Fords are generally safe under normal stream flow conditions, Navid said.

"You can do it in a car, but I guess it's a judgment call," she said. "I know I've turned around from there at least once."