Western Maryland Rail Trail Two cyclists on the trail checking out the map Beginning approximately one-half mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, Maryland, the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) winds along the Potomac River through rolling farmland, woodlands, and rural towns to its terminus at the southern slope of Sideling Hill Ridge. In August of 1990, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired 20.3 miles of the abandoned segment of the Western Maryland Railroad Line, and the three lots in the Town of Hancock from CSX Transportation, Inc. The rail corridor was purchased with state-wide DNR Program Open Space funding at a cost of $1,042,000.

The Western Maryland Rail Trail is currently about 23 miles long. Beginning about ½ mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, the trail follows the former Western Maryland Railway line through Hancock, Maryland, and on to Woodmont Natural Resources Management Area and the Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area.

The first section, from Big Pool to Hancock, opened in 1998 and covers 10 miles and parallels many historical sites and scenic areas including Park Head Level Graveyard, Millstone and Moffet Station, Little Pool and Hancock Station.

The second section was open to the public on June 10, 2002 and extends from Hancock to Pollypon, a small body of water where canal boats would winter. Also paralleling the C&O Canal, this section mainly passes through wooded areas with numerous rock outcroppings ideal for geological exploration.

Phase three, a two and a half mile section opened in 2004 with terminus in Pearre, Maryland, and passes several interesting historic sites that are of great interest to those who like to explore local history.

Cyclists on the tree lined trail

To reach the eastern end of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, take exit 12, MD 56, from I-70. Turn east and go to Big Pool. The trail parking lot is across the street from the Post Office.

To reach Hancock and explore the the western end of the trail, take exit 3 from I-70 into Hancock. Travel west on MD 144 for 1.4 miles. Turn left into the Western Maryland Rail Trail parking lot.

Common activities people enjoy on the trail include hiking, biking, jogging and skating. The easy grade and paved surface make this path ideal for families, the elderly and persons with disabilities (the trail is very wheelchair friendly) to enjoy a trek outside.

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Last updated October 1, 2007



Article written by Geoff Fox

The Nation Park Service, along with the C&O Canal National Historical Park, are looking for the public's opinions in determining one of four alternatives to pursue for the Western Maryland Rail Trail extension. Four possibilities were unveiled at a second round of public meetings on July 13 in Hancock and July 14 in Paw Paw.

Tunnel bypassed

All four alternatives bypass the Indigo Tunnel to avoid sensitive bat species as well as their habitat. The Park Service feared that an increase of human activity would cause stress to the bats and possibly lead to spreading the bat disease White Nose Syndrome.

A wooden boardwalk-like bridge structure would be constructed to connect the rail trail to the C&O Canal towpath on both sides of the tunnel/ In three of the four alternatives, parking areas would be constructed to accommodate users. The Potomac River bridges would also be getting rehabilitated in three alternatives.

The alternatives

First Alternative: The rail trail would be extended from Pearre Station to the west end of Potomac River Bridge #1 near Doe Gully, W.Va. The trail along the former Western Maryland Railroad right of way would match the existing rail trail.

Second Alternative: The trail extension would extend from Pearre Station through Doe Gully and on through the Stickpile Tunnel. An option being considered would be to bypass Stickpile Tunnel to avoid the bats and their habitat and use Kasecamp Road.

Third Alternative: Would extend the rail trail from Pearre to Potomac River Bridge #4 on the west side of the Magnolia Bend. This alternative does not currently include an extension to Paw Paw, but would allow for future extension of the rail trail along the B&O Low Line by someone other than the National Park Service.

Fourth and Final Alternative: Would extend the trail from Pearre to the Paw Paw Tunnel Parking Area. This would incorporate the first two alternatives and then pick up at Potomac River Bridge #3 and continue to the Paw Paw Tunnel parking area where it would connect to the C&O Canal Towpath. As an option to alternative four, the extension may bypass Kessler Tunnel, with the Potomac River floodplain being considered as a potential option to bypass the tunnel. This option would connect to the C&O Canal towpath at Potomac River Bridge #4, allowing users to travel along the towpath through the Paw Paw Tunnel where it would connect to the parking area.

The National Park Service is seeking public comment about these alternatives until, Monday, August 15. Only written comments will be accepted. They can be submitted via the NPS website, parkplanning.nps.gov or by mail to: National Park Service, Denver Service Center;

TransporTransportation Division, CHOH WMRT EA Planning Team, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, PO Box 25287, Denver, Co 80225-0287.

OOnce the Environmental Assessment is developed, it will be made available for public review for 30 days. W


DNR's New Land Trails Planner

August 19, 2011

"MD Trails Summit" <MdTrailsSummit@dnr.state.md.us>

Greetings, My name is Steve Carr, and I am the new State Land Trails Planner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

At the Governor's Trail Summit in the fall of 2010, Governor O'Malley and Secretary Griffin made a firm commitment to the trail community that DNR would soon be hiring a Trail Planner to help coordinate statewide efforts to create a trail network linking federal, state, county, municipal, and private park lands, along with our many natural, cultural and recreational resources throughout the state of Maryland. I began my new position as State Land Trails Planner at the beginning of July. As a matter of background, I am a very active outdoor person and you will find me hiking, biking or paddling almost every weekend throughout Maryland. I rode my bike across the United States twice in the 70s, and currently I own a small bike touring business in Annapolis. I began working on trails in 1978, when I was hired by the United States Forest Service near Grand Canyon. I worked on the Kaibab National Forest as a surveyor for the next fifteen years. For the past twenty years, I have owned a small environmental consulting business and helped the city of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County develop their bike/ped strategies and trails. My trails experience includes: trail recon and layout, trail design and contracting, mapping, hiring and working with consultants, serving on local & regional advocacy bike/ped groups, public outreach, engaging local trail advocates and building partnerships, liability and safety issues, working with local governments and businesses, master plan development and review, project overview, obtaining grants and financing, and writing newspaper and magazine stories about bike/ped issues.

I am a hands-on fellow who loves to get out and see what's happening on the ground. Goals & Objectives

* Work with the trails community to develop a user-friendly interactive trails map on the DNR website that can easily be used by the public.

* Update the DNR Trails website with the help of our many partners so that we can create a clearinghouse of information for anyone interested in discovering trail opportunities throughout Maryland.

* Hold a second round of Regional Roundtables in the winter of 2011 or 2012, so we can get back on track and start working more effectively to develop and promote Maryland trails.

* Provide technical assistance to the trails community whenever possible.

* Work with our partners to update regulations as needed.

* Work with our regional partners to select one Priority Project in each region and move it forward.

* Provide funding assistance for trail initiatives. To further our partnership, can you please provide:

* Notice about your meetings

* Recommendations on how the next roundtable in your area should be organized and structured, including tentative agenda items

* Copies of local trail plans

* Copies of local Bicycle Master Plans

* Latest Maps - Preferably digital, but hard copy if that's all you have

* A list of high priority trail projects Since this effort is focused on "making connections" between trails and one another, please feel free to contact me at any time and I would really love to visit your area with my bike, or on foot, and you can show me what's happening in your neck of the woods. I know that some of you may have received multiple copies of this greeting and for that I apologize. Many of you are on multiple committees or affilaited with several groups and that's why you get tagged more than once.


STEVE CARR Land Trails Planner Land Acquisition & Planning Maryland Department of Natural Resources

580 Taylor Avenue, E-4

Annapolis, MD 21401

PH: 410-260-8478

FAX: 410-260-8404


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