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County Turns Back on Dundalk Heritage Trail

The author, Maryland state delegate John Olszewski, Jr., strongly disagrees with Baltimore County's decision to abandon the Dundalk Heritage Trail project.

It is no secret that all levels of government have been struggling to find a way to pay the ever-increasing costs of providing services people rely on while also struggling with significantly declining revenue resulting from the great recession.

Until recently, I have been especially impressed by the ways in which Baltimore County has tackled these challenges. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the County Council planned well for these days, amassing a sizable surplus when times were good. Moreover, they have not been reluctant to make difficult reductions in government, merging departments and finding efficiencies that are saving millions of dollars annually.

Fiscal prudence, however, should never come at the expense of communities – and should absolutely seek to avoid breaking one’s commitment. The admiration I once had for the difficult decisions being made by the county has been sharply diminished, as the Kamenetz administration recently made an “economic” decision that will be a detriment to the greater Dundalk community. Of greater concern, it represents a breach of trust.

I have recently been informed that the administration of Baltimore County had decided not to move forward on the completion of the Heritage Trail, symbolized by its failure to purchase the last parcel of land required. The trail sought to establish a new, neighborhood-scale roadway that better connects Dundalk’s historic town center with the thriving Canton area and with the area’s largest employer, the Port of Baltimore, through the extension of Center Place to Broening Highway. In addition to opening up new economic opportunities for Dundalk’s main street, the project would have also diverted truck traffic away from and eliminated a truck depot located in a residential area.

Indeed, while it is regrettable that some of the benefits of the originally-proposed projects may now never materialize, it is shameful to think that our government would turn away from a long-standing commitment that it has made with the community. Moreover, it disregards the efforts of community members who have gone great lengths to support this project – going so far as joining me to personally testify at Baltimore City Hall to make it even possible for the county to purchase the property in the first place.

Making matters worse, our local government did not even offer the community the opportunity to provide input while they were considering the termination of this project. Opening the dialogue would have at least allowed community members to offer alternative cuts or creating funding mechanisms to keep the project alive.

I strongly encourage you to contact our local government officials, and especially County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, whose administration made the decision to stop this project.

When you make your contact, tell the County Executive and his administration that their failure to follow through on this commitment is unacceptable.  Let them know how wrong it is to turn their back on its residents, and that Baltimore County has a responsibility to find a way to finish what they have started.  We all deserve nothing less from our elected officials at all levels.

State Del. John A. Olszewski, Jr. can be reached via email at john.olszewski@house.state.md.us. His district phone number is 410 282-1733.   

Wayne Monroe October 16, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Sorry, I fail to see any particular benefit in this "trail". I think it was wise to hold it up. The delegate would better focus on the redistricting issue.
Dawn Shipley October 17, 2011 at 01:42 PM
I live in the affected neighborhood, the benefit to me is the idea that 18 wheelers would stop traveling up and down my residential street, breaking branches, causing traffice issues. I am for cutting down on spending my tax dollars, I just am not sure the idea of nixing a half done project is a smart idea either... that makes the money spent a waste. Also, I am one who believes that Dundalk, with it's low voter turn out, is never on the list of neighborhoods to "please" when politicians are spending money. they get more votes for the money in other neighborhoods for sure... Until we ALL rise up and make a difference at the polls we will always be neglected!
mike gardiner October 30, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Where is Delegate Olszewski coming from? What are his priorities? Doesn't he know that over 200 County employees will lose their jobs because of a need to cut the budget. Doesn't he know that schools, bridges, and roads need repair first. Doesn't he know that we need to keep police on the street to protect us? These things are more important than a trail especially in bad economic times!!
Buzz Beeler October 30, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Mike, after the recent fiasco inside the police department, the looming ADA investigation by the feds, and the lawsuits lined up behind that, the waste is in the multimillions. Fred Homan is involved in many of these gaffs and yet the county executive allows this man to continue to plunder our tax dollars. In other words there is a lack of leadership.
Michael DiMarzio January 28, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Jimmy Thompson makes an excellent point...this isn't about the county deciding to not spend money (they are still going ahead with spending a small fortune on the Towson City Center redevelopment, and the Towson Circle III project), this is about the county deciding that other areas take priority over Dundalk. The sad thing is, this was a project that, comparatively, didn't cost a lot of money, and was already half-done, and then the county decided mid-way to pull the funding to funnel the cash to it's more wealthy constituencies. This isn't about fiscal responsibility, this is about county leadership that doesn't see the benefit to building a park in Dundalk, when it can spend the money on another parking garage in Towson.

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