Bike path proposal approved for Cambridge park


Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
City Council approved a proposal for a new rail-trail to replace the railroad tracks that cross the property of the old Phillips Packing Company along Dorchester Avenue.

CAMBRIDGE — The City Council has authorized the signing of a lease with the state this week. The lease enables Cambridge to join the many communities in Maryland and throughout the country that have taken abandoned railroad right-of-ways and turned them into recreational areas for bicycles, pedestrians and even horses.
In Cambridge, the Phillips Packing Company used the now-abandoned stretch of rail for agricultural production; now, according to the nationwide organization Rails to Trails, a stretch like this can help produce “vibrant communities” and “healthier citizens and even a spurt to the economy.“
It was no easy ride getting to this point. Brian Roche, president of the Choptank Heritage Trail, said it started with enthusiasm eight years ago. Support came from the county, the City Council, and the state, and there was even a “draft lease.” Opportunists began to unlawfully remove the rails. But times were different and the money to proceed was not there. Brian Roche says the great idea became a pipe dream. At that time, he and other bike enthusiasts, plus citizens who wanted to see improvements to the city, had to regroup. But now the time is right. Brian is excited that now the ideas of eight years ago are moving forward to a solid beginning with a signed lease.
A rail-trail requires a flat, gentle grade and the two and a half acre trail will be 66 feet wide, stretching from Washington Street to Cedar Street and Building F of the Phillips Plant. It will run along the present park area. The State of Maryland undertook the lengthy and laborious task of researching each separate unit of property ownership to determine who owned the land originally and was it fee simple or leased. That process alone took a year and a half.
Brian Roche envisions a bike path that in the future will connect all the towns of Dorchester — a bikeway beltway. Pat Escher of the Planning and Zoning Department envisions the possibility of a future expansion as far as the airport, but even that’s not a reality for now. She says it would require the city or county to petition the state to renew the laborious task of certifying the ownership of any additional stretch of rails, a years-long process.
Now Cambridge can begin planning and developing what shape local development will take. A 66 foot wide stretch can accommodate a 16 foot bike path plus a pedestrian walk. Phases of the construction of a path require planning, cleanup, and installation of infrastructure that includes water and electricity. A child born eight years ago, at the same time the bike path idea was born, will be ready for the bike path hopefully very soon.

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