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Sharpsburg working to draw more tourists from canal users

About eight town officials and others conduct a town assessment

June 29, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

SHARPSBURG -- Following the lead of other towns in Maryland and West Virginia, residents and town officials are concentrating on what they can do to draw more tourists to Sharpsburg from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

Maryland towns Hancock, Williamsport and Brunswick, and Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, have been designated as Canal Towns as part of similar efforts to attract canal users.

The towns are trying to capitalize on users of the canal -- particularly bicycle riders -- and are examining their business districts and infrastructure like availability of bike racks.

To determine what towns have or what they might need, assessment teams have fanned out to physically examine a town's features and services.

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Modeled after the Trail Town Program used for The Great Allegheny Passage trail in Pennsylvania, a group of about eight town officials and others met Tuesday night in Sharpsburg to conduct a town assessment of that community.

After walking through the town for about 45 minutes, some needs were obvious, like a lack of places to rent a bicycle or any places to get bikes repaired, group members said.

"(There's) no place to even buy anything to get it fixed," said Mayor Hal Spielman, who was on the assessment team.

The assessment group, which met at town hall, also discussed how there were no public restrooms in town or a public drinking fountain.

"Those are major gaps," said Cathy McCollum, director of the Trail Town Program, who led Tuesday's meeting.

The group talked about what roads would be best to lead bicyclists into town. The group talked about how Snyders Landing Road is too narrow for bicyclists and that Canal Road might be a better way to bring bicyclists into town.

While there are issues to work on, group members emphasized what the town has going for itself, like Antietam National Battlefield, bed and breakfast inns and Nutter's Ice Cream.

"By the way, I think your town is beautiful. The trees are wonderfully attractive here," said McCollum, who said she would work to find funding for signs for the town.

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