Walking or biking from Old Town Bowie to Bowie State University is expected to get a bit easier in two years, as city officials said they are ready to start building a long-awaited trail that will connect the two areas.
The trail segment will be part of the roughly 3.5-mile proposed Bowie Heritage Trail, which would start at a Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail intersection off Race Track Road in the city and run north, ending at Bowie State University and the MARC train station. City officials have been planning the trail since 2005, said Joe Meinert, director of the city’s planning department.
The section running from Old Town Bowie, around Chestnut Avenue, to Bowie State University, running along parts of Laurel Bowie Road and through Jericho Park, will be a quarter-mile-long asphalt segment up to 10 feet wide, according to a city report.
“We’re ready to move ahead with the city paying 100 percent of the costs. What we’re trying to do now is offset the costs,” Meinert said.
The segment, the trail’s first two-tenths of a mile, will cost nearly $300,000, he said. Construction is set to begin and end in 2015.
Construction plans for the Bowie Heritage Trail’s three remaining segments are still in the works, Meinert said.
The State Highway Administration awarded the city $40,000, the largest amount available under the state’s Recreational Trails Program, a federally funded program aimed at building and maintaining community-based recreational trails, said Terry Maxwell, Maryland’s Recreational Trails Program manager.
Bowie’s request was a priority for the state, Maxwell said, because it addresses statewide health and economic concerns — the same reasons Meinert said Bowie officials have pushed for the trail for so long.
“We’re trying to fight obesity. It’s a big problem [in the state]. With trails and open spaces, you are making it easier for families to go outside and get exercise,” Maxwell said. “Another thing we prioritize is economic development. When you connect towns and parks, you’re making the town a more attractive place to live. You’re drawing interest in purchasing homes there.”
Michael Shannon, a real estate agent with SEI Real Estate in Bowie, said in the long run, if people find an area more desirable to live, property values will rise.
“Any time you can have access to an open area in your community, it’s a draw for your community,” Shannon said.
Christopher Keller of Silver Spring, who owns Christopher’s Antiques in Old Town Bowie, said the trail is a “win-win situation.”
“I see a lot of people riding bikes on the street and I think the trail would be very helpful. It will bring business down [to the town] and give easy access to students at the college,” Keller said.