The Mason-Dixon Trail has had an interesting history between Perryville,
MD and North East, MD. As of late winter, 2016 the trail is blocked at
more than one point along this stretch. This article will expound on some
history leading up to this scenario, the present situation and proposed
solutions to fix these closures.
When the M-DT was laid out in this area of Cecil County, MD in the 1980's it was largely undeveloped. The region had lots of open space, ample streams vast forests and a small population. Over the last 30 years this area has experienced a rapid increase in population and development, both commercial and residential. As the area has built up and has transitioned from rural and agricultural to industrial and residential, it has caused location challenges for the Mason-Dixon Trail.
When a long distance trail like the Mason-Dixon trail is created, it usually meanders between large and small public parks, forests and special areas such as game lands. In order to get between these areas a long distance trail has to be either routed along public roads or permission has to be granted by private land owners to have a hiking trail run through their property.
The Mason-Dixon Trail does run through a number of private property tracts. And we are very grateful for these private property owners letting us do so. We realize that when a change in ownership of private property occurs or a change is made in the purpose or long term plan for a property, this may affect the Mason-Dixon trail if it runs through that property.
We do try and keep in contact with private property owners along the M-DT so that we can be aware of any changes. Sometimes we are successful at this. Sometimes we find out about a trail closure by getting a trail issue report. If we have a section maintainer/section coordinator/state director in place in a given area we can make adjustments to the trail before it's too late. If we don't have the proper personnel in place on our end then we end up being reactive versus proactive in these areas.
In the case of the M-DT between Perryville and North East it was a combination of not having all the players in place on our end to interact with land owners as well as changes in ownership and/or the re-purposing of those properties. In one case the trail was completely blocked due to safety concerns regarding the type of business that was started. In another case a new structure was built on a property and blocked the trail. This happened in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
What happened next will be presented at a high level only as there are no verifiable records of the course of events. And no names will be used in order to protect the innocent and not disparage any person or organization. A letter was allegedly sent from this second landowner stating that the trail needed to be relocated, gave us an alternative route and asked for concurrence. Between 2004 and this time there have been a series of alleged communication misses and breakdowns between the landowner and the Mason-Dixon Trail System.
So this is where we stand today. These blockages affect close to 7 miles of the Mason-Dixon Trail. We need to relocate about 5.5 miles of trail, build about 1.5 miles of new trail, remove blazes on about 5.5 miles of existing trail and reblaze the entire 7 mile stretch. The first step is to 'flag' the 1.5 miles of new trail that we must build. It is through a thick forest and has one small to medium stream crossing. We hope to get this done by mid March, 2016. Once this is done, we will again have a continous trail.
When and if we start to get this section of the trail up to Appalachian Trail standards we will need volunteers to help us make the above changes. The time frame would be between April and October, 2016. If we can't get volunteers from within our organization we may have to look at other outdoor organizations to help us out. If that fails, we may have to close the trail in this area. We also will need 2 or 3 maintainers for this area once the above changes are completed. If you live within 50 miles of Perryville or North East, MD you are a prime candidate for a maintainer or maintainer's assistant position.
So if you would like to volunteer to help The Mason-Dixon Trail System in this endeavor, please Contact Us. We do need help.
4-1-2016 Update- The M-DT within Map 7 between Logistics WA and Forge CT, about 3.5 miles, has been reopened.
4-16-2016 Update- The M-DT between Forge CT and Cemetary RD, about 3.5 miles, has been reopened.