In December 2006, the Urban Research and Development Corporation of Bethlehem, Pa., completed a WMRT Economic Impact Study for the Town of Hancock. It found that the trail created more than $2.9 million in annual gross direct spending from approximately 95,000 user visits in Washington County.
"The Convention and Visitors Bureau recognizes the importance of this recreational amenity in our county," said CVB President Tom Riford. "Visitors and residents alike enjoy the beautiful experience of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. I certainly agree with the Virginia-based bicycle club which was quoted as calling our Rail Trail 'a cathedral in the trees.' With nearly $3 million in local economic impact, the Rail Trail has proven its value to our county." Riford also praised ongoing efforts to extend the Western Maryland Rail Trail to Little Orleans, Md., and onward another 14 miles.
A group known as the Western Maryland Rail Trail Supporters (WMRTS) is working to promote and support the extension of the WMRT through the Paw Paw Bends area of the Potomac River. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is seeking donations from both the private and public sector. The organization already has the support of the C&O Canal Association, the county commissions of Morgan County, W.Va., and Allegany and Washington counties in Maryland, the state of Maryland, the state of West Virginia, and the Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Program, as well as the Hagerstown-Washington County CVB.
The Western Maryland Rail Trail Supporters, in partnership with the Hagers-town-Washington County CVB, is working with DH WEB Inc. in developing a new Web site promoting the extension of the trail from Pearre Station to Little Orleans, and the next 14 miles known as the Paw Paw Bends. The new extension would include two more tunnels, Kessler and Stickpile and six high-trestle bridges. It would cross and recross the Potomac River between Maryland and West Virginia.
The WMRT opened in 1998 and is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (Parks). It begins just west of Fort Frederick State Park and follows the former Western Maryland Railroad line through the town of Hancock, ending 10.5 miles west of Hancock at Pearre Station. The trail follows the bends and curves of both the C&O Canal and the Potomac River but is almost completely flat and is paved. The WMRT is a popular recreational spot for cyclists, walkers, joggers, and cross country skiers, weather permitting. For more information about the WMRT, visit www.westernmarylandrailtrail.org.
The Western Maryland Rail Trail and the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, are members of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information, see www.marylandmemories.com.