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What Is Our History?

Since 1974, Sugarloaf Regional Trails has been involved in historic preservation and environmental planning projects. Our area of interest is bounded by the Potomac and Monocacy rivers, I-270 and Watts Branch , a 100-square mile section of Montgomery and Frederick counties. Founded by Frederick “Fritz” Gutheim, the group held eight conferences on conservation and farmland preservation, published books and historical themed trail guides. Perhaps their most important work was the Master Plan for Historic Preservation that resulted in the Montgomery County Ordinance for Historic Preservation, 1981.

Supported by grants from the Montgomery County Planning Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Maryland Committee for the Humanities and Public Policy, Sugarloaf Regional Trails maintained staff and offices in a cottage at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. Gail Rothrock, Director, and Eileen McGuckian, Assistant Director, headed a staff of part time professionals and many volunteers. From this location thirteen trail guides were researched, illustrated by Harry Jaecks and published. Mr. Gutheim supervised and advised each project.

Fritz Gutheim (1908-1993) was a writer, historian, urban planner, lecturer, university professor, administrator, exhibits specialist, editor, entrepreneur, newspaper reporter, collector, farmer, preservationist, civic activist, environmentalist, think tank director, film producer. His book, The Potomac, revealed how profoundly the river influenced the economy and the form of the nation’s capital. Worthy of the Nation is the account of the intricate planning history of Washington D.C. Gutheim founded and directed the graduate program in historic preservation at George Washington University. He was outspoken. In a review published in The Washington Post he described a submission for a competition thus: “The winning design in the Franklin D. Roosevelt competition is not architecture but literature. It should not be built.” Dubbing the design “instant Stonehenge,” the design was dismissed and a different one chosen. Gutheim was a main author of the “Mass Transportation Survey” which became Metro.

The thirteen trail guides followed technological development into the twenty-first century. First published and distributed free in 1978 as individual hand-outs, the guides were reprinted in book form in 1980, sponsored by the Montgomery County Planning Board and Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. By 1999 developmental changes made it necessary to print a revision. However progress marched on and by 2009, every land trail except the railroad required new research. As a result, the SRT Board decided not only to update all the trails (and develop several new ones), but also to shift the major focus from developing printed brochures to presenting all the information on the web either for downloading or for online use by mobile devices. The original drawings by Jaecks are still included as well as the history, illustrating and describing scenes along the trails, supplemented now with current photographs of the area.

That pile of red sandstones, the cleared area and the heap of bottles and cans you see have a history. A woman in a long black dress carried that broken bucket to the stream you just crossed, filled the pail with water and carried it back to a cabin to heat on a wood stove to make breakfast for her family. Join us on the trail!