Western Maryland Rail Trail
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.
An additional 4.5-mile (7.2 km) extension to Little Orleans was funded in 2005. The project was originally set to begin construction in October 2014 and to last about a year. The $4.6 million planned extension would have taken the trail to the 4,350-foot-long (1,330 m) Indigo Tunnel, but not through it for environmental reasons. An environmental impact study determined that the tunnel 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 was instead to use the C&O Canal towpath to bypass the tunnel within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. After further review, the extension was placed on indefinite hold in 2014 because hikers and cyclists were determined to be a threat to bats that roost in all three tunnels.
After continued review it was decided to not extend the trail through Stickpile or Kessler tunnels. This makes extending the trail beyond Magnolia, WV impossible because trying to bypass it is cost prohibitive. Without the tunnels, West Virginia decided to drop out of the project and so it was decided to terminate the trail at Little Orleans, MD instead of Paw Paw, WV.
In May 2016, it was announced that work on the extension to Little Orleans would commence in July 2016 and complete the following July.
- "DNR Announces Third Phase Of Work Completed On Western Maryland Rail Trail". Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 2005-05-19. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
- "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]
- McVey, John (2014-01-27). "WMRT to be extended to Potomac". The Journal. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- Nov. 15, 2008 Baltimore Sun and batworld.org
- McVey, John (2014-01-27). "Proposed plan to extend path shelved". The Journal. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- McVey, John (17 August 2015). "Advocate still fighting for Paw Paw Bends trail". Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- "DNR Trail News: March 2016 – May 2016". Retrieved 29 June 2016.
- Western Maryland Rail Trail, Hancock Maryland Station
- Photo tour of Western Maryland rail trail possible extension
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