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Funds raised for Rail Trail amenities

August 23, 1998

Rail TrailsBy MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer [enlarge]




HANCOCK - Nearly every weekend since its grand opening last spring, the $1 million Western Maryland Rail Trail has been the scene of activity, both organized and casual.

Saturday was no exception, with a mix of families, couples and kids riding alongside the 70 or so bicycle riders who were collecting pledges to help pay for lights and benches at the Hancock end of the trail.

Those cyclists made the trip east to Big Pool, a distance of just over 10 miles.

"This is a first-time effort, thought up by Louis Close, our town manager," said Hancock Mayor Dan Murphy as he got ready to mount his own bike for the trek.

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A number of items, such as lights and benches, weren't included in the budget for the project. Close thought the bike trek would be a fun way to come up with those dollars.

Close said one group of riders raised more than $800 and there were some corporate sponsorships as well. In all, more than $2,000 was pledged, he said.

"We want safety and good looks for the stretch of the trail that comes through our town," Murphy said.

Holly Prettyman of Berlin, Md., said she was all for those amenities as she adjusted her bike and prepared to hit the trail.

"I have a friend who is from Hancock and she told me about this. It sounded neat so I came all the way from the Eastern Shore," Prettyman said.

Cheryl Hofman of Allen, Md., enjoys riding on a surface designed for biking, free of rocks, ruts and vehicle traffic.

"This gives our town a lot of exposure. ... Look at all the out-of-state license plates," Murphy said.

This wasn't the first time.

On July 31, between 700 and 1,000 people turned out for the GTE Big Ride, which rolled through Hancock on the way from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to benefit the American Lung Association.

Since its grand opening in April, the trail has been used by families pushing strollers as well as power walkers, in-line skaters, strolling couples and cyclists.

The trail is a wonderful resource for older people and those with disabilities, Murphy said.

The Western Maryland Rail Trail is part of a plan to build trails from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

The trail runs from Pennsylvania Avenue in Hancock to the Md. 56 exit on Interstate 70, about half a mile from Fort Frederick State Park.

The other half of the trail project, to extend 10 miles west of Hancock to Pearre, near Woodmont, is expected to be built in the next few years.

The trail property was purchased from CSX in August 1990 with $1 million in state Program Open Space money.

Construction of the first phase began in November 1996. It was built by Building Systems Inc. of Hagerstown.

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