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Hancock celebrates museum, improvements

May 11, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Hancock Mayor Dan Murphy Tuesday describes the new Hancock visitors center on Main Street.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HANCOCK -- The good news just kept coming Tuesday for Hancock.

First, the town cut the ribbon on a new museum that displays items from the closed Sideling Hill Exhibit Center along Interstate 68.

Then, town officials unveiled improvements along the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

And, finally, an announcement was made by a national parks official that three new projects are in the works for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in the area.

A historic culvert along the towpath near downtown that has been deteriorating will be repaired at a cost of nearly $1 million, and the C&O Canal is planning to soon open a new visitors center along the towpath in a historic farmhouse south of town, said Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the park.

Park officials also said they are considering operating canal boats on a watered section of the canal near Hancock to help illustrate past life along the old shipping route.

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During a ceremony in the new museum that attracted more than 100 people, Mayor Daniel A. Murphy celebrated the team effort to make improvements in town.

"What a coming together. No one did this. We all did this," Murphy said.

The Sideling Hill Exhibit Center was closed by the state last summer as a budget-cutting measure, but Hancock officials were able to convince the state to move the center's geological and animal displays to a new town museum on Main Street.

Some of the display cabinets weighed more than 1,000 pounds, and Murphy spoke Tuesday about prison labor and help from others that went in to setting up the artifacts at the museum at 44 W. Main St.

"With a crowbar and an artistic eye," workers set up exhibits that not only help tell the story of Sideling Hill, but of other local history like the area's apple industry, Murphy said.

The town did not have any money to staff the museum, but volunteers stepped in to help, Murphy said.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who was among a group of dignitaries who spoke, said the federal government could learn a lesson from Hancock about how to do more with less.

The crowd moved to a spruced-up section of Western Maryland Rail Trail, where officials pointed to flower planters and banners hanging from columns along the trail. There are 18 columns, and the first and last columns have banners that read "Welcome to Hancock, a Trail Town Community."

Trail Town is a concept launched in Pennsylvania to attract users to trails, and Hancock officials have been incorporating the plan.

"Hancock really gets this," Trail Town director Cathy McCullom said, noting that Hancock's improvements help not only the town but also the region.

The C&O Canal connects to the Great Allegheny Passage, which allows users of the trail to go from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh.

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