The National Park Foundation is awarding three national parks in Maryland a total of $39,700 in grants for improvements and learning projects.
Of that amount, Antietam National Battlefield will get $18,250 to build new trails through the Active Trails Grant, according to a news release from the park service.
An additional $11,000 in Park Stewards Grants will go to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park, while $10,450 is slated for the Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Md.
Ed Wenschhof, chief ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield, said the park will put the money toward development of two new trails.
He said the funds will cover labor and construction costs. Some of the funding will also go toward one historical and two natural resource wayside exhibits.
"At least since I've been here, we haven't put in for any grants, so we didn't know how competitive they were. We were surprised," Wenschhof said.
The developments will add another 1.5 miles of trail to the 13 miles that have been expanded over the last 10 years, Wenschhof said.
He said the trails should be open by the park's 150th anniversary this fall.
The C&O Canal National Park is also wasting no time putting its grant money to use.
Bill Justice, chief of interpretation and education, said the park has been planning a service-learning project with Allegany County schools for some time, and the grant is just what they needed to get started.
"The neat thing about this project is that the funding came in when we already were working on a project," Justice said. "You never know with this kind of grant. You put in for a project that's really great, but you're competing with a number of other parks. There are 394 different park areas. You don't know if there's another, more creative program out there."
Students from Allegany County are developing an application parkgoers can access called "The C & O Canal Video Tour."
"When you think of service-learning projects, you usually think of going into a park to paint or clean up trash. This is very much a service-learning project, but it will have a much longer life span than a coat of paint on a park bench."
Catoctin Mountain Park is also using its grant for service learning. The park will partner with schools to provide overnight, educational classes, Interpretive Supervisor Susan Burkes said.
"We were exploring a lot of possibilities with programming. Because of budget cuts, we knew hiring would be at a premium, so we started looking for an alternative solution, (and) started talking to a lot of groups regarding grant opportunities," Burkes said.