Charles County commissioners Tuesday appropriated $50,000 to plan how to build a hiking, biking and horse-riding trail along Mattawoman Creek.

Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) said he hopes eventually to build a 15-mile trail stretching from Waldorf to Indian Head, but the first phase of the project is limited to a 4.5-mile length of the Mattawoman, from Route 301 to the Briarwood subdivision.

The $50,000 -- taken from the county's 2001 linear trail systems budget -- will be used to hire a consulting firm. Consultants will examine what property or rights of way the county would need to buy and what completing the trail would cost.

Levy said there likely would be few obstacles to purchasing land for the trail. The terrain along the creek is mostly wetlands that cannot be developed. But engineering the trail -- whether it is concrete or gravel -- could prove a challenge.

"This area is environmentally special," Levy said. "It's spawning grounds for bass and herring, and it's a lot of wetlands, so this will be hard to do."

Commissioners chose Mattawoman over other possible linear trail sites because the creek runs near a lot of development and because of its aesthetic value.

"Thousands of people could take advantage of it," Levy said. "And it's beautiful."