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Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail 'part reality, part vision'

January 28, 2013|By RICHARD F.BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Donald E. Briggs is superintendent Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
By Richard F. Belisle/Herald-Mail Reporter

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — A brochure describing a section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail says the pathway is a braided network of trails, open space and natural areas winding through a corridor “linked by land, water and history.”

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is the only one of 11 in the federal system that includes “Heritage” in its name, said Donald E. Briggs, the trail’s superintendent and its only full-time employee.

Briggs, 60, has been a National Park Service employee for 26 years, including 12 as trail superintendent. He lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The trail, “still part reality, part vision,” was authorized by Congress in 1996 and funded in 2000, he said.

It begins at the Southern Maryland Potomac Heritage Trail on the Chesapeake Bay. It joins all or part of federal, state and local trails on its northwest journey to its final destination — Pittsburgh. Including connecting loops, the trail network covers about 783 miles, Briggs said.

It connects to several trails, including the Potomac Heritage Trail, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, Civil War Defense Trail, Mount Vernon Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage, which links Cumberland with Pittsburgh. The journey takes it through three states, the nation’s capital, and 37 cities and counties.

The trail’s only connection with West Virginia is Briggs’ small corner office in Cook Hall, an old stone building at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

“This is an ultimate trail experience for hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and, where there’s water, paddling, with an experience that’s tied to history,” Briggs said. “As a whole, the trail gives a sense of history with a variety of landscape and topography.”

Much of the trail’s success depends on how local governments take advantage of what it has to offer, he said.

Briggs’ duties involve working and consulting with and providing technical advice to federal, state and local officials, local planning commissions and tourism officials. He travels to meetings along the length of the trail.

An ongoing project is arranging for the installation of signs along the trail’s length to give it its own identity, Briggs said.

For more information www.nps.gov/pohe/index.htm

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