MNB Brooks Hill Loop Trail

Monocacy National Battlefield’s Brooks Hill Loop Trail starts near Worthington House and loops for 1.9 miles on Worthington Farm off Baker Valley Road.

The National Park Service approved a new public access plan Wednesday for Monocacy National Battlefield. The plan will allow for expanded walking trails at the increasingly popular park.

The approved public access plan also includes new interpretive elements and a non-motorized boat launch to the Monocacy River.

The Monocacy National Battlefield has 7 miles of hiking trails, including the Brooks Hill Loop and Junction trails. Most of them, however, are disconnected, making hiking farther than 2½ miles without trekking already hiked trail or driving between trails impossible.

“Right now we have a lot visitors walking and then driving to other trails and walking and driving to another part of the park,” said Nissa Fink, chief of resource education and visitor services at the battlefield. “Now people will be able to park once and walk around the park.”

The new trails will also allow visitors to access parts of the park, such as parts of the riverfront and parts of the Best Farm area, that were previously inaccessible to foot traffic.

History-focused interpretive elements are a large part of the public access plan. The new trails approximate Union and Confederate army movements during the 1864 Battle of Monocacy and connect key battle points, such as artillery placements.

A planned boat ramp will allow park visitors to launch kayaks, tubes and other non-motorized watercraft into the Monocacy River.

The National Park Service initially opened the 1,647-acre national battlefield in 1934. It has grown in popularity over the past 10 years. When the National Park Service opened a new visitor center in 2007, the park was receiving between 30,000 and 35,000 visitors a year. In 2016, the park received almost 80,000 visitors, according to a National Park Service statement.

An environmental assessment of the draft public access plan made available for public comment in January. Bob Vogel, director of the National Park Service’s Capital Region, signed a finding of no significant impact on Wednesday after considering public input.

Implementation of the public access plan will happen incrementally over the next few years as funding becomes available, Fink said.

Follow Cameron Dodd on Twitter: @CameronFNP.

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