Western Maryland Rail Trail

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The Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Maryland

The Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) is a 22.5-mile (36.2 km) long shared-use asphalt-paved rail trail from Fort Frederick to Pearre Station, Maryland, United States, that is suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and, weather permitting, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

The trail runs on the abandoned right-of-way of the Western Maryland Railway's West Subdivision. The line was officially abandoned in 1975 and the final train on the line was run in December 1988, a work train that removed the rails between Big Pool and Tonoloway. In August 1990, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources purchased the right-of-way from 1/2 mile west of Fort Frederick State Park to Little Orleans through Hancock from CSX Transportation. Construction began on the first ten-mile (16 km) section from Fort Frederick to Hancock opened in 1997 and was completed in 1998. The second section, running 10.3 miles (16.6 km) from Hancock to Pollypon, a small body of water where canal boats would winter, began in 2001 and opened on June 10, 2002. Construction began on the third section, a 2.1-mile (3.4 km) extension from Pollypon to Pearre Station in 2003 and it opened in 2005.[1]

An additional 4.5-mile (7.2 km) extension to Little Orleans has been funded.[2] The project is set to begin construction in October 2014 and is expected to last about a year.[3]

The $4.6 million planned extension would take the trail to the 4,350-foot-long (1,330 m) Indigo Tunnel, but not through it, because an environmental impact study determined it houses the largest known bat refuge in Maryland. The tunnel is one of the largest hibernaculum of five species of bats, including the Eastern Small-footed bat and the Indiana bat (both currently listed as endangered) as well as numerous other bats. The trail will instead use the C&O Canal towpath to bypass the tunnel within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.[4]

In the longer term, Maryland and West Virginia aspire to extend the trail 10 additional miles to Paw Paw, West Virginia. The extension will cross the Potomac six times and pass through the old Stickpile and Kessler tunnels. However, the extension is currently halted indefinitely because of an environmental threat to bats residing in three tunnels along the proposed section of trail.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "DNR Announces Third Phase Of Work Completed On Western Maryland Rail Trail". Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 2005-05-19. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  2. ^ "Governor Ehrlich Announces Funding To Expand Western Maryland Rail Trail In Washington County". Maryland State Highway Administration. 2005-06-01. Retrieved 2006-12-21. [dead link]
  3. ^ McVey, John (2014-01-27). "WMRT to be extended to Potomac". The Journal. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  4. ^ Nov. 15, 2008 Baltimore Sun and batworld.org
  5. ^ McVey, John (2014-01-27). "Proposed plan to extend path shelved". The Journal. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°39′47″N 78°13′54″W / 39.6631°N 78.2318°W / 39.6631; -78.2318