HANCOCK — A plan to extend the Western Maryland Rail Trail could be approved by the National Park Service by August with construction of a portion of the extension possibly beginning later this year.
An environmental assessment of the extension was reviewed by about two dozen people Thursday night at an open house meeting at the Hancock Town Hall.
The assessment looked at a section from Pearre, Md., to Paw Paw, W.Va., a winding section of former railroad approximately 15 miles long.
However, the preferred alternative is 8.1 miles of paved trail from Pearre to Stickpile Tunnel and from Paw Paw to Potomac Bridge No. 5, said Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park.
The alternative has the least impact on wetlands and where bats hibernate in the winter — called bat hibernacula — in the train tunnels along the route.