Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Biking group: Time to finish Fairland Park trail

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A group of metropolitan area cyclists are not pleased that park officials stopped them from completing the final 1,000 feet of a biking trail that straddles Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and have started a petition drive in an attempt to revive the project.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission ruled in 2005 that the remaining 1,000 feet of the 6-mile natural-surface trail in Fairland Park could not be finished, citing concern over the number of trees being cut down and the safety of other trail users.

The cycling group Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE) wants to see the trail in Laurel completed. Member Austin Steo of Burtonsville has started collecting signatures on a petition in hopes that they will help convince commission members to reverse their decision.

MORE volunteers began clearing the 4-foot-wide trail in 2000, with the approval of Park and Planning officials. But in 2005, the group was ordered to stop the work amid concerns over the number of trees being cleared and the safety of those running, hiking and riding horses along the trail, which when finished would make a complete loop, said Park and Planning Supervisor Chuck Montrie. There is a separate equestrian trail, but equestrians also use the bike trail, he said.

Since then, cyclists have written Prince George’s County Councilman Thomas Dernoga (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel seeking his help to reverse the commission’s decision.

Montrie said Park and Planning would seek public input on Steo’s request during a park master plan meeting in October, he said.

Discussion will include possible new trails and the completion of the bike trail. Montrie said there was not a public hearing when the commission approved MORE’s previous work on the project.

‘‘We’re not saying yes or no” to the request to finish the trail, Montrie said. ‘‘But before we move forward, we want there to be a public process.”

Fairland Park, located west of Interstate 95 at Old Gunpowder and Van Dusen roads in Prince George’s County, and running north along Greencastle Road in Montgomery County, also has 2.5 miles of paved trails completed by Park and Planning.

While the unfinished section of the natural-surface bike trail is entirely in Prince George’s, most of it is in Montgomery.

Rick Barr, a South Laurel mountain biker, said closing the gap in the trail would enable users to travel farther without having to turn around.

‘‘It would create a much larger loop, which is always nice,” he said.