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Rail Trail survey begins

March 29, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Work has begun on a Western Maryland Rail Trail economic impact study intended to provide a better sense of how many people use the trail and its financial impact on the town of Hancock, Hancock Town Manager Lou Close said.

The $25,000 study is being conducted by the Urban Research Development Corporation of Bethlehem, Pa. It will result in a marketing plan that the town can use to draw people to the trail and the town, Close said.

The 10.6-mile Rail Trail runs from Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool to Pennsylvania Avenue in Hancock.

The study is being funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Tri-County Council and the town of Hancock, Close said. Hancock's $5,000 share will be in the form of in-kind services, Close said.

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Within the next few weeks, town employees will hand deliver survey forms to all of its residents to save postage, Close said.

The survey prepared by the Urban Research Development Corporation asks residents if they use the trail, how they use it, when they use it and other related information, Close said.

Town businesses will be asked how they are affected by the trail and how it can be better used as a local economic development tool, said Tom Palmer, executive vice president of the research firm.

As part of the study, trail users will be counted, Palmer said. At least one person will be on the trail for one week of each season, counting people using the trail and in what ways, he said. There is also an electronic counter in Big Pool, he said.

A count was done earlier this month, he said. Those numbers are still being tabulated, he said.

Trail users encountered during the count are asked to fill out a survey that asks where they live and how much they spend when they go to the trail and at what businesses, Palmer said.

The corporation will analyze the information from the surveys and the count and submit a final report to the town by October 2002, Close said. The report will include the marketing plan.

Mayor Daniel Murphy said he knows from using the trail himself that it draws people from outside the area but he has no idea how many. He said he hopes the report determines that information along with how much money trail users contribute to the area.

The trail is being expanded by 9.5 miles to Polly Pond in the Woodmont area.

The extension, like the existing portion of the rail, will have a paved path for cyclists, joggers, hikers and inline skaters.

Construction of the trail extension began in May 2001 and the work, including paving, is expected to be finished by late May, said Ralph Young, Fort Frederick State Park manager.

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