Freedom Trail Founder Resigns in Conflict With County Officials
Trail creator Ross Dangel steps down, details of heated e-mails released.
Bike path advocate Ross Dangel of Eldersburg announced he is quitting his efforts to establish a nine mile hybrid trail to connect Eldersburg and Sykesville after a dispute with county leaders that ended in a nasty e-mail exchange with Commissioner Doug Howard, District 5.
The so-called Freedom Trail was a proposed connector trail that began at the Eldersburg Estates neighborhood and ended at the Springfield Hospital Center. It served to connect several miles worth of trails between Eldersburg and Sykesville.
Dangel also announced Monday he will be closing down the Freedom Trail Fund, a foundation he created to help pay for the bike trail in Eldersburg. “It is clear from this exchange and several others over the last month or so that Mr. Howard and the county do not want or need my help with the project,” said Dangel in an e-mail to community members and media outlets Monday. “More disturbing to me personally is they have actively worked to publicly depict my involvement with the trail as negative and to disparage the trail plan in an attempt to undermine my reputation in the community.”
After a portion of the trail, spearheaded by Dangel and consisting of 60 yards of mulch, was officially announced to the community as “open” on a Freedom Trail Facebook page in early September, it was shortly closed down by the county and "no trespassing" signs were placed at areas along the path.
Howard had the trail closed after the Eldersburg Estates Home Owners Association complained about the proximity of the trail to its homes and the Springfield Hospital Center, and the lack of community input on the trail’s location.
Dangel released Howard's e-mail response to the news media. Howard's email cc'ed local government officials, including Del. Susan Krebs and Jeff Degitz, administrator for Carroll County Recreation and Parks.
“In my opinion, the biggest obstacles to having this project move forward since we took office are you, your actions and your misleading or erroneous statements,” responded Howard in the e-mail released by Dangel.
“You have taken a reasonably worthwhile idea and turned it into a fiasco. In my humble opinion, if this project ever goes from idea to an actual trail, it will be in spite of your actions not because of them.”
The dispute erupted after a contentious community meeting Oct. 27 in which residents criticized Dangel for moving ahead with the trail without county approval.
“Ross is very enthusiastic and that’s how you get things done, but you have to slow down and follow certain guidelines,” said State Delegate Susan Krebs after the community meeting.
“As a resident of the community we are all for trails in our area, however we were completely left out of the process and we’d like to have a voice,” said Denise Graybill, resident of Eldersburg Estates.
Howard said after the meeting and reiterated in his e-mail that the closing of the Freedom Trail will not be the end of a bike and walking path in the area.
“As I committed to at the meeting, I will produce an outline of the process for getting a trail approved, funded and open to the community,” said Howard. He said he would approach the state about funding a feasibility study.
Dangel accused the commissioners of derailing the project for political reasons.
"I haven't been apologetic about being a vocal critic of this BoCC and I expect this to continue, as long as they are not serving the public interests," said Dangel in the e-mail to Howard.
"It is reasonable for me to conclude that Doug's actions are some sort of political 'payback' for my criticism and several people have intimated as much to me. The need for trails in our community, however has nothing to do with politics and I have no interest in playing political games."