County Comment: County and city governments partner on Civil War Railroad Trail concert
County and city governments partner on Civil War Railroad Trail concert
By Norman Bassett
Washington County Maryland Public Information Officer
Hagerstown, MD (March 1, 2012) - Conversion of former railroad rights of way to hiking and biking trails is not a new concept in Maryland and Washington County. In 2005, twelve miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail was constructed in Hancock. Another example is The Great Allegheny Passage, a 141 mile trail linking Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a connection to the C&O Canal trail.
Washington County is working with the City of Hagerstown and the Hagerstown Bike Advisory Committee on a Civil War Railroad Trail project that will connect Hagerstown to Weaverton, in the Southern portion of the County. The proposed project would encompass 23.4 miles along the former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad bed, which is now owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The trail is expected to create tourism, economic development and healthy lifestyle opportunities for County citizens, passing near 14 federal, state, and local parks, and providing easy access to Hagerstown, Williamsport, Boonsboro, Keedysville and Sharpsburg.
Small businesses near the The Great Allegheny Passage trail report over $40 million in revenue directly attributed to trail users. If the proposed trail in the County comes to fruition, it is expected that similar small businesses would locate along the route, and at least 200 new jobs could be created in Washington County. Research shows that this project could have an estimated $6.4 million in positive economic impact.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, "Good health starts where you live," and cycling is a leader in outdoor activities in the County. Improvement in health has a positive impact on the foundations of healthy and happy communities. Daily and weekend traffic on the C&O Canal trail is proof that hikers and bicyclists regularly use such facilities.
Steps Taken by the County
To date, the County has received nearly 40 letters and emails of support and two letters and emails in opposition of the Civil War Railroad Trail project. The County is working with residents along the proposed route to address any landowner concerns and will hold public meetings to continue gathering feedback on the project. On February 28th, the Board of County Commissioners also voted to ask for planning and development funding in a request letter to the Maryland Transportation Administration.
Contribute Your Feedback
To voice your opinion about the proposed trail, please send an email to the Board of County Commissioners of Washington County at CountyCommissionersEmail@washco-md.net. If you would rather write a letter, please address it to 100 West Washington Street, Room 226, Hagerstown, Maryland 21740. The County will continue to release updates on the proposed trail's progress so please stay tuned to the County's website, www.washco-md.net as well as local media outlets.