How The Trail Began

By Alan S. Field

The Trail dedication for the first 7.18 miles (Ashland to Monkton) was Saturday, December 8, 1984. Following the dedication, Bill Diegel, Larry Gang and I ran 10 miles out-and-back. My memory is that we ran from the Phoenix Parking Lot dedication site at about the 2 mile mark up to Monkton and back.

I was the current and 4th president of BRRC at the time. Larry, since deceased as a result of a hiking accident in Colorado, followed me as the 5th BRRC president. And Bill was the Club treasurer during my term as president. John Roemer III was the second BRRC president and the person who got the Club and me engaged in supporting Trail construction. It was his son, John IV, who spent the morning today with me at the Monkton Station walking down memory lane!

I created the first set of mile posts —1 thru 7 — over the winter in my garage and basement, using a Boy Scout wood burning tool to burn the numbers into the top of the posts. This was after receiving permission from Rick Barton, the Gunpowder Park head ranger, to "plant" the markers in the spring. A group of us planted those posts on Saturday, April 20, 1985. Below is what went into the BRRC 1985 Club Summer Newsletter regarding the posts. I had totally forgotten that my at-the-time 9 year old daughter Christina ("Tina") was part of the post-gang that day!

When the Trail was completed from Monkton to PA, Willard Freeman was BRRC president if memory serves me correctly. I believe that it was during his tenure that BRRC once again stepped up and planted the mile posts from 8 on. My memory is vague on this as I had moved to Columbia in late 1985 and was pretty much disconnected from BRRC by the time of the opening from Monkton north. Again, going on memory, I believe that the first North Central Trail Marathon (26.2 miles), conducted by BRRC, was held on November 24, 1990 and continues to this day as an annual event. I ran the marathon 9 times from 1990 to 2000, missing only in 1991 and 1997. Of my 41 marathon completions, this event still stands as my favorite, usually coinciding with the first weekend of deer hunting season which was always a little disconcerting when the guns started blasting in the woods and fields along the Trail!

            It is particularly gratifying to me to know that the NCR/Hereford Volunteers Association, Inc. exists, given the tremendous amount of acrimony generated by Trail neighbors during the time the State was moving forward with the conversion of the washed-out railroad bed to the current community crown jewel that now exists. I remember Rick Barton telling me that in the first 7.18 miles, over 300 dumpster loads of trash — such as abandoned cars, kitchen appliances, and other flotsam and jetsam — was removed from the Gunpowder River and along the Trail and River banks. It was inconceivable to me at the time that the neighborhoods would rather live with that blight than what the State was planning with the rails-to-trails matched federal funding. Common sense — and the unflagging dedication and perseverance of Rich Barton in lining up Trail supporters such as John Roemer, III and BRRC - ultimately prevailed although the early years were hard as every time some knucklehead on a dirt bike or hot rod got onto the Trail, Rick took the heat and the blame. But he and his Rangers committed to strict Trail regulation enforcement to the point that it is hard to imagine that any neighbor today would be a Trail opponent! I still consider Rick the real unsung hero in getting the Trail ultimately approved and built.

Allan S. Field
9501 Sweet Grass Ridge
Columbia, MD 21046
410-746-6532