Q: What is the goal of the Western Maryland Rail Trail supporters (WMRTS)
A: The current goal of the Western Maryland Rail Trail Supporters (WMRTS) is to build a broad coalition of support for the effort to extend the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) westward through the 14 miles, 6 bridges, 3 tunnels and 2 States of the Paw Paw bends of Maryland and West Virginia. The coalition will be made up of individuals, families, clubs, organizations, businesses and government entities that want to show their support for this important project.
The Steering Committee of WMRTS acts as a coordinator between the coalition, City, County and State agencies of West Virginia and Maryland, the C & O Canal National Historical Park (CONHP), and varied funding sources, whose mutual cooperation is necessary to accomplish this large project.
Q: Who Owns the Rail Trail?
A: The completed 22 miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) are owned by the State of Maryland (19.5 mi) and CONHP (2.5 mi managed by MD).
The C&O Canal National Historical Park owns the former Western Maryland Railway (WMR) right-of-way from Pearre all the way to just south of Cumberland, MD. This 35-mile corridor comprising 475 acres was purchased by the National Park from the most recent owners, Chessie System (now CSX) in 1978 for the sum of $650,000. This continuous property, including the bridges, tunnels; MD and WV sections will allow the WMRT to be built without the acquisition of any additional property.
Q: Is it possible to travel on the proposed rail trail now?
A: Some sections of the right-of-way are clear and can be walked on, however in some areas, nearby landowners may object to this. The bridges and tunnels are all barricaded for safety reasons and no trespassing is allowed.
Q: What are donations to the Western Maryland Rail Trail Supporters (WMRTS) used for?
A: WMRTS contributions are used to publish and distribute promotional materials
and create and maintain a website.
In addition, WMRTS funds are used for various aspects of the preliminary process of assessing the overall rail trail project.\
Q: When will the trail be completed?
A: As of 2008: Now that all the major stakeholders: C&O Canal National
Historical Park, the State of Maryland, the State of West Virginia, and bordering
City and County governments, are firmly behind the project of completing the
next 14 miles, the next step is an environmental and engineering assessment.
Senator Byrd, WV has recently appropriated nearly a million dollars, which will be used, in part, to conduct the environmental, engineering and cost assessments necessary to start actual construction. The State of MD already has funds appropriated to carry the trail for 5 more miles upstream from Pierre, thru the Indigo Tunnel to the first bridge across the Potomac River to West Virginia.
Q: Why are there 6 Bridges and 3 tunnels in 14 miles.
A: The WMR was the last of tree major transportation companies to build a pathway through the narrow and convoluted valley known as the Paw Paw bends of the Potomac River. The WMR had to avoid the already present C&O Canal, and the B&O railroad in addition to the all the natural obstacles. The WMR was also bent on creating a pathway that was at a significantly higher elevation than its two rivals in order to avoid the destructive floods, which were a constant threat.
Q: Does the WMRT contribute to the economies of the towns it passes through?
A: An economic impact study of the WMRT commissioned by the town of Hancock, MD showed that 1.7 million dollars in local gross direct spending resulted from 76,000 trail visits per year.
Q: Are there any landowner concerns for those who own property near the Trail.
A: One of the basic problems for adjacent landowners is
that they have had nearly 30 years during which they have been able to consider
the narrow strip of former WMR land as their own property. Some parcels of land may have
been sold with the false promise that the WMR land would always remain vacant. The
fact is that despite its narrow profile, the CONHP owns this land free and
clear and is entitled to put it to its best use. Every reasonable effort
will be made to address adjacent owners concerns during the assessment and
Concerns over litter and trespass have been proven to be unfounded from the record of the existing WMRT and many other rail trails.