Slowly but surely, a shared-use biking and walking path is taking shape on the east side of Frederick, and could eventually stretch beyond the city.
When finished, the path will connect Frederick’s Worman’s Mill neighborhood north of Md. 26 with the MARC train station on East Street near downtown.
Pieces of the trail have already been built along East Street, said Tim Davis, transportation planner with the city of Frederick.
From the MARC station to around Eighth Street, the path runs on the street, with lane markings to guide riders.
From Eighth Street to Md. 26, it will be constructed on an old railroad bed. Beyond Md. 26 it will run alongside the tracks for the Walkersville Southern Railroad, which the railroad will continue to use.
The city has gotten a grant to fund the gaps in the trail between the Family Meal restaurant and the old Coca-Cola plant in the 1700 block of North Market Street, Davis said.
The city has gotten about $600,000 in grants for planning, design and other things, he said.
The plan is to create an interconnected set of paths and trails to different parts of the city.
Once this path is finished, someone living in Worman’s Mill could ride their bike all the way down East Street to the MARC station, park the bike and take the train to work in Washington, D.C., Davis said.
Frederick County’s Bikeways & Trails plan calls for the path to stretch out to Walkersville, and ultimately to Woodsboro.
The county is about to begin some preliminary engineering on the trail to get some information on approximate costs and impacts, which should be complete by the spring, said Ron Burns, transportation engineer manager in the county’s Department of Development Review.
The plan for the path and its components started about 20 years ago, said Kelly Russell, a Frederick alderwoman and longtime advocate for bike projects.
The evolving system of paths and trails starts to connect parts of the city that have traditionally been separated, she said.
“Piece by piece, this whole network is coming together,” she said.
Russell said the more connections that are created help form a city where you don’t need a car to get around, improving air quality, health, and creating opportunities for economic development.
Tom Rinker, owner of The Bicycle Escape shop in Frederick and president of the Frederick Bicycle Coalition, said he regularly talks to people who are new to the area and are surprised that Frederick doesn’t have more bike facilities.
“There’s an expectation that they’re there,” he said.
The bicycle coalition has endorsed the trail project, which Rinker said would help solve the challenge that exists for bicyclists to get from the county into the city.
“This trail would provide that vital link,” he said.
Paul Kovalcik, one of the directors of the Walkersville Southern Railroad, said they’ve been involved with the city for almost 10 years working on the project.
The railroad’s right of way along East Street hasn’t been in use since before 1972, and would be difficult if not impossible for the city to recreate the land rights needed for the trail, he said.
“Those rights of way are very precious,” he said.
And the steel rails and other pieces on the unused section of tracks can provide replacement parts that they can stockpile to help maintain the eight miles of track that they use for their scenic weekend trips that they run from May through October, as well as the other events they provide.
Meanwhile, the trail along the tracks that are still in use will complement the railroad’s ongoing operations, he said.
Kovalcik said Davis and the city have been good partners to work with.
“It’s never been combative,” he said. “It’s always been a cooperative effort.”