Meshach Browning Trail System opens in McHenry

From The Garrett County Republican

McHENRY — Along with the new year came the “soft opening” of a new trail system in the McHenry area.

The Meshach Browning Trail System, which covers more than six miles, is a public, non-motorized, multi-use recreational and cultural resource at the Deep Creek Lake Lions Club Park located at 1249 Bumble Bee Road.

“For almost 30 years, the Deep Creek Lake Lions Club has operated the county-owned, 30-acre community park on Bumble Bee Road,” said Chris Nichols, project coordinator for the trail system for the Deep Creek Lake Lions Club. “Over the past few years, the club has made a commitment to improve the facilities at the park to provide more recreational opportunities for both locals and visitors.”

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Maryland Department of Natural Resources proposes building two off-road vehicle trails

By DAN DEARTH
dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
5:00 p.m. EDT, August 31, 2013

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has proposed building two recreational trails for off-road vehicles in the westernmost portion of Washington County.

The proposal to build the trails on state-owned land at Sideling Hill North and Sideling Hill South is to be discussed Sept. 4 during a meeting at the New Germany State Park Lake House in Garrett County, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

DNR said it is proposing another off-road vehicle trail in Garrett County at St. Johns Rock.

The proposals could meet with resistance from environmental groups, according to Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany.

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Storm damage, rescue of lost hikers leads to closure of Garrett trail

Michael A. SawyersCumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Maryland Forest Service officials decided three weeks ago to close the popular, 17-mile Big Savage Hiking Trail after six lost hikers had to be rescued.

The culprit, according to Steven W. Koehn, director, was tropical storm Sandy that struck Garrett County in October and toppled uncountable trees.

“(This year) some folks from Outward Bound reported that there were obstructions, lots of trees, down across the trail, so much so that they were unable to finish their hike,” Koehn said in an email to the Times-News on Monday.

“Later, a group from the Mountain Club of Maryland tried to hike the trail and they reported the same thing. They were unable to follow the blazes because some of the trees with the blazes on them were down as well.”

Then, last month, six hikers became lost and had to be found and rescued by Maryland Natural Resources Police.

“That was enough for me and, after talking with local staff and folks in the attorney general’s office, we decided to close the trail until we are able to cut through and re-blaze the trees,” Koehn said.

“It will likely be three weeks before we will be able to begin work clearing and re-blazing. There has been interest from volunteers to do the work. However, because of the remoteness and amount of work involved, including chainsaw work, this help has not materialized.”

NRP Sgt. Dave Marple said Monday that the lost hikers called 911 for help after dark.

“A GPS coordinate was obtained from their cell phone signal. Officers Brian Friend and Glenn Broadwater plugged that into their hand-held GPSs,” Marple said.

“They told the hikers to sit tight and it took the officers a couple hours to walk to them. They got there about midnight and everybody walked out about 2 a.m.”

There were no elderly or children in the group and no injuries, according to Marple.

Friend credited the lost group for following directions to stay put so that they could be found. “It’s good that people carry their cell phones and call 911 because we can get a GPS coordinate,” he told the Times-News during a phone interview Monday.

The wet and tired group of hikers was found between a half-mile and a mile off the trail in an area of very thick growth due to recent gypsy moth damage that cleared out the forest canopy and fallen trees from October’s storm, Friend said.

The officers hiked the trail starting at the southwestern terminus just downstream from Savage River Dam. Friend said the going was rough due to the steep terrain and several switchbacks where the trail zigzags back and forth. “It’s easy to get turned around in there,” Friend said.

The lost hikers had started from the opposite direction earlier in the day. They were found using glow sticks and their cell phones as light sources and had wandered down the mountain toward the Allegany/Garrett County line.

Friend provided spare flashlights that he carries in his search and rescue pack to help the hikers negotiate their way out of the woods.

“That was a tough trail to hike even before the storm,” Marple said. “It’s not like walking the (C&O Canal) towpath. We went in a year ago to rescue three guys in their 20s.”

The trail is laid out northeasterly along the Savage Mountain ridgeline and ends near St. John’s Rock not far from Interstate 68.

Agency literature describes the trail as difficult with few reliable drinking water sources.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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DNR close to living up to trail promise

Michael A. Sawyers Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Two years after closing a pair of off-highway vehicle trails on state forests in Western Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources is close to living up to a promise to replace one of them with a loop in eastern Garrett County.

Citing environmental damage caused by improper use, the agency in April 2011 closed an 18-mile trail on the Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County and another along Poplar Lick on the Savage River State Forest in Garrett County.

“The Green Ridge closure cost business in Allegany County $1.6 million,” said Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine.

Valentine spoke at a meeting Monday in the county office complex.

The Maryland OHV Alliance organized the gathering that was attended by the District 1 legislative delegation, county commissioners from Allegany and Washington counties, and DNR staffers, including Secretary Joe Gill.

Paul Peditto, who heads the DNR effort to establish new trails, said a 13-mile trail in the St. John’s Rock area is approaching approval.

That site is just south of the Finzel exit on Interstate 68.

Slightly behind in the process are two trails in Washington County proposed for a wildlife management area and a natural resources management area on Sideling Hill.

“There is a lot of energy around this effort,” Gill said. The secretary urged participants to study successful trail programs from other states.

Peditto anticipates a public comment period about the St. John’s Rock trail by late summer. A 12-month construction period would be required for completion.

Allegany County Commission President Mike McKay asked alliance spokesman Ken Kyler to come to a county work session to explain the search for new trails.

“Be prepared to answer all the tough questions,” McKay said. “There will be property owners up in arms because of anticipated noise levels.”

Although the proposed new trails are on public land, substantial discussion took place Monday about establishing them on private land, as well.

“The first question that has to be dealt with is the liability issue,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly.

Delegate Wendell Beitzel said he is concerned about trail users leaving existing paths and wandering on to adjoining private lands that are not part of the established routes.

Much discussion centered on the possible placement of trails on reclaimed strip mine operations.

Sen. George Edwards said he hopes with the thousands of acres owned by DNR in Allegany and Garrett counties that a couple of trails could be established without using private lands.

Kyler, a Middletown resident, said the Hatfield-McCoy trail in West Virginia generates $20 million annually for businesses there.

Development of trails in Maryland could include links that establish larger systems, he said. He said an economic study of a trail in Minnesota discovered that each user spent an average of $190 per visit at local businesses.

Delegate LeRoy Myers Jr. urged the group to assure that small towns become part of the trail loops so that businesses would prosper.

Peditto said a private campground near the proposed St. John’s Rock trail should benefit economically once that project is done.

The use of OHVs is the fastest-growing form of recreation in the country, according to Steve Carr of the DNR.

Peditto said it is likely that OHV trails on public lands would be closed during peak hunting periods such as the deer firearms season.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

Md. officials OK local projects

New Germany Park expansion, more trails being added:

Matthew Bieniek Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — The state board of public works approved several projects for funding, along with contracts in Allegany and Garrett counties on Wednesday, including more than $1 million for the Jennings Run sewer rehabilitation project, according to Susan Brogan, the deputy treasurer for public policy of the state treasurer’s office.

Jennings Run sewer customers are slated for a rate increase despite the state funding, county officials have said. The funding approved Monday was for $1,187,042 of state bond proceeds.  Jennings Run customers could see an $8 increase per quarter for sewer surcharges, according to a recent presentation by Mark Yoder, the county’s utilities division chief.

The county is under a consent order by the Maryland Department of the Environment to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows during and after heavy rains.

The project is part of a long-term plan to meet the requirements of the consent order.

This project includes relining and/or replacement of sewer pipes and manholes. The project is expected to minimize sewer backups and overflows, according to board of public works documents.

Frostburg’s water system also benefitted from the board’s actions.

The board approved funding up to $269,250 for the Savage Raw Water and Energy Conservation project.

Frostburg plans to conserve water and reduce energy consumption by rehabilitating the city’s drinking water collection system in the Savage River basin in Garrett County.

The aging system experiences leakage and uses some out-of-date equipment and deteriorating facilities. The project will involve the replacement of pipes, spring houses, pumping equipment, the lining of basins and other improvements, according to board documents.

The purchase of more than 11 acres to expand New Germany State Park was also approved Wednesday. The state agreed to pay $101,000 to buy land from William K. and Kathleen R. Tunney.

“Acquisition of the property will allow the expansion of trails at New Germany State Park and provide a buffer between park activities and private property. The property is populated with apple and cherry trees, making it an excellent habitat for wildlife,” according to board documents.

At Swallow Falls State Park, ice cream will once again be available for the summer, since the board approved a contract with Lakeside Creamery, who has been providing cool refreshments at the park since 2003.

“Historically, Lakeside Creamery has been the only bidder for this contract since 2003. It is believed that because Swallow Falls State Park is located in a rural area where there are very few ice cream vendors with trailers is why there were no other bidders,” according to the board agenda.

“Lakeside Creamery agrees to sell solely hand-dipped ice cream and smoothies made with hand-dipped ice cream,” the agenda reads. The contract is expected to generate $150,000 in gross sales, with 12 percent going to the Department of Natural Resources.

The Allegany Museum will also gain $100,000 for capital improvements. The museum has been working through a capital improvement plan over the last several years, utilizing their own funds and state bond bills. The updates will allow the museum to become involved in loan exchange programs with other museums and upgrades to the interior of the Pershing Street building.

The board also approved funding for two smaller Project Open Space projects. The first project will provide $40,000 in funding for improvements at the Ellerslie Community Park. The funds will be used to add new fencing, upgrade restrooms, the concession stands and make bleacher improvements. The Ellerslie park is just over 11 acres in size. The second smaller project ap-proved $38,990 in funding for improvements at the Grants-ville Playground and Park.

The monies will be used to add a walking path around the 14-acre park and add new backboards for the basketball courts along with new bleachers and playground equipment, according to board documents.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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