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Grant allows further expansion of rail trail

May 10, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

As the extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail nears completion, money has come in that will mean the trail can be expanded even further, Fort Frederick State Park Manager Ralph Young said Thursday.

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

Phase I, which opened three years ago, runs parallel to the Potomac River, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath and Interstate 70.

A 9.5-mile extension of the trail from Pennsylvania Avenue to Polly Pond in the Woodmont area is scheduled to open around Memorial Day, Young said. Construction on that second phase began in May.

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Fort Frederick officials applied for a federal grant, and in April received $150,000, which will be used for the third phase, a 2.5-mile extension from Polly Pond to Lock 56 near Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct, Young said.

Construction will begin in 2003, he said.

When all three phases are complete, the trail will cover about 22.5 miles, Young said.

The extensions, like the existing portion of the trail, will have a paved path for cyclists, joggers, hikers and inline skaters. People also use the trail for cross-country skiing in the winter, Young said.

If money is left over from the construction, it will be used for lumber to build four small emergency structures, which he said would be like a "watchman's shack." The structures, spaced throughout the trail, would provide shelter for people caught in the rain, he said.

Money might also be used for the purchase of an ATV for search and rescue patrol, a mower for maintaining trail heads, a small chain saw for brush cleaning and a Global Positioning System for boundary marking, Young said.

Phase 1 cost about $1.5 million. The second phase cost about $1.4 million, Young said. The cost of the third phase is estimated at $500,000, he said.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said he was pleased to hear that the funding for the next extension had been received.

"That is good news. We are really tickled," he said.

The Town of Hancock benefits from the trail but it not known how many people it draws or how much money they spend in the area, Murphy said.

Work is under way on an economic impact study intended to determine that information. The $25,000 study will result in a marketing plan that the town can use to draw people to the trail and the town.

As part of the study, trail users will be counted.

The report, including the marketing plan, is due in October.

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