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Hikers, bikers using Rail Trail

June 11, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Hikers and bikers have been using the Western Maryland Rail Trail even though it has been promoted little outside of the Washington County area, Maryland Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Patty Manown said this week.

"It's been going wonderful," she said.

Manown had no figures on the number of people who have used the paved trail since it opened.

The 10.3-mile trail runs parallel to the C&O Canal Towpath between Big Pool and Hancock. It is owned by DNR and run by the staff at Fort Frederick State Park. It was dedicated in ceremonies in Hancock on April 30.

Hancock officials hope it will draw more tourists to town.

Manown said most of the publicity about the trail so far has been generated by a press release she faxed out before the dedication. She said there has been no money in her agency's budget to pay for printed tourist brochures or handouts.

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That hasn't stopped the word from getting out, she said.

"We have people asking at the I-70 west visitors center about what the trail is," Manown said.

She said she knows of others from the Baltimore-Washington area who have discovered the trail after coming to Hancock to walk the towpath.

"I've been encouraging people I talk to to bike the miles to Hancock and then stop and do the tourist thing, and eat lunch in town," Manown said.

Some who came to Hancock to hike or bike told her they took the trail one way and came back on the towpath, she said.

"It's been wonderful," Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy said. "We're getting increased ridership, and local people are telling us that they're beginning to meet people from out of the area on the trail."

Murphy said property owners whose land abuts the trail have started cleaning up the back of their properties, and "the guy at the bike livery is absolutely ecstatic" about business the trail is generating.

"I think it's going to put us on the map," Murphy said.

Speaking of maps, Manown said park rangers at Fort Frederick are working on a drawing that will illustrate the trail, the Potomac River and the towpath.

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