From Neglect To Natural Wonder: Breathing Life Into Reisterstown's Forgotten Franklin Woodland Trail


Credit: Jeanne Andrews

REISTERSTOWN - On a fateful day in 2019, Jeanne Andrews, a Certified Master Naturalist and librarian, set out on an ordinary adventure to teach children about the wonders of nature. Little did she know that her journey would lead her to an extraordinary opportunity.

Deep in the heart of Reisterstown, tucked away between the Reisterstown Library and Franklin Elementary School, stood a weathered sign bearing the faded words "Franklin Woodland Trails." For years, it had been nothing more than a forgotten relic of history, but Andrews, her eyes gleaming with determination, saw beyond the decay.

Guiding a group of curious children through the underbrush, Andrews and her young companions encountered a disheartening sight. A wave of debris greeted them: broken bottles, discarded truck tires, and even a complete bed frame lay scattered amidst the trees.

Andrews took it upon herself to clean up the area and create a space for children to play and learn about native plants and animals. As she undertook this audacious restoration project, a question began to gnaw at her thoughts: Had there truly been a Franklin Woodland Trail in the past?

"There was some evidence that there had once been a pathway, so I started trying to uncover it," Andrews said. "As I progressed, I was not quite sure; maybe I was following an animal trail, but then I found a shopping cart and a clearing that had apparently been home to homeless people at some point."

Andrews spent six months blazing a path through the brush with the help of her husband. Between working on the derelict pathways, she wondered why the sign was put up in the first place.

"There was no record of it anywhere, Andrews said. "I went through all kinds of archives."

She ventured into the Reisterstown library's history room, and lo and behold, buried within those forgotten pages, lay the answer.

According to Andrews, the trail was part of an initiative started by a Franklin Elementary principal in the 1970s. Art, English, and Science classes were held outside so students could connect with nature. Sadly, when the principal departed, the trail was abandoned, left to wither in the shadows of obscurity.

Franklin Woodland Trail is not officially recognized by Baltimore County Parks and Recreation. It sits on land owned by the board of education, limiting what can be done to the property. Despite these challenges, Andrews went forward with her plans for revitalization.

Work on the trail progressed slowly before Andrews decided to share her pet project with the community. She contacted the Reisterstown Improvement Association (RIA), who immediately backed the idea.

"I initially called it the library loop, but after a while, I decided it would be best to get the community behind me and see what we can really do," Andrews said.

RIA offered Andrews a seat on the board and initiated a cleanup event for the trail on the second Saturday of every month. With the unwavering support of the RIA, Andrews embarked on a quest for grants to finance the ambitious restoration. Her efforts bore fruit when the project secured a state grant of $40,000 and a county grant of $100,000. Empowered by these newfound resources, Andrews, RIA, and a group of dedicated volunteers set out to transform the decaying remnants into a trail that would inspire awe and wonder.

Trash was cleared, bushes were trimmed, and the pathway was slowly resurrected from its slumber. As public support swelled, the trail began to blossom, welcoming a series of captivating "points of interest." A whimsical "mud kitchen" emerged, inviting children to embrace their creativity, while a charming canoe nestled among the foliage beckoned young adventurers to dream and explore.

The "mud kitchen" at Franklin Woodland Trails. (Credit: Jeanne Andrews/ Facebook)

To Andrews, this trail was far more than a pet project. It was a portal into the soul of Reisterstown—a testament to the community's resilience and a gateway for locals to forge meaningful connections.

"I am happy to see people every time I'm out there. If another person is walking a dog or some little kids playing, my heart just melts," Andres said.

This Saturday, the trail will once again come alive with community spirit. Anyone who desires to lend a hand, to witness the power of collective action is warmly welcomed.

For more information about the project or to join the restoration efforts, see here.

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