Thurmont Trail Land

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird has suggested starting the extension of the Trolley Trail toward Catoctin Iron Furnace with the approval of the county's Bikeways and Trails plan. The town commissioners held a closed session recently to discuss acquiring a 10- to 15-foot-wide strip of land along the wastewater treatment plan to extend the trail out of town and begin its eventual connection to Catoctin Furnace and Cunningham Falls State Park.

A small purchase of land could get wheels moving in Thurmont.

In a closed session on Aug. 14, Mayor John Kinnaird proposed to the Board of Commissioners extending a 0.7-mile walking and biking trail, known locally as the Trolley Trail, outside the town limits to begin its eventual connection to Catoctin Furnace and Cunningham Falls State Park.

It would be up to Frederick County to secure access easements to the remainder of the trail once it leaves the town limits, but Kinnaird was hopeful the town’s actions would push the project to the top of the county’s priority list.

“I want them to know we’re putting in a sizable effort to help them do this,” Kinnaird said Monday.

Last month, the Frederick County Council approved an update to the Bikeways and Trails Plan, The News-Post reported. Among the approved trails is a pathway connecting Thurmont and the city of Frederick via the H&F Trolley right of way, which Potomac Edison currently uses for overhead electrical lines.

The initial connection to Catoctin Furnace could help the municipality and county eventually justify the 14-mile trail to the city.

The impetus for building a trail network in Frederick County is the economic boom other jurisdictions have seen from the construction of long trails such as the Great Allegheny Passage — a 150-mile biking and walking trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland — which ends at the C&O Canal. Locally, Thurmont has already seen a rise in cyclists, but it lacks an off-road loop that would bring riders back into town at the end of long rides.

Kinnaird has proposed purchasing a 10- to 15-foot-wide strip of land adjacent to the town’s wastewater treatment plant to extend the Trolley Trail past Moser Road toward Catoctin Furnace.

His idea is that cyclists could then loop from Catoctin Furnace across a footbridge over U.S. 15 along Cunningham Falls State Park, and back to Main Street in Thurmont.

The town has an unused land acquisition grant available to purchase the strip of land near the wastewater treatment plant, after a plan to buy another piece of property near Community Park fell through, Kinnaird said by email on Tuesday.

The purchase would be a welcome addition to the Trolley Trail, according to Bryant Despeaux, president of the H&F Trolley Trail Association, which is a citizens cycling advocacy group in Thurmont.

“This ... alignment would help break the next hurdle in the southern extension of the trail and would help our organization with its goals to lengthen the trail,” Despeaux said by email on Tuesday.

Building connections

The H&F Trolley line is one of the county’s best examples of a site that could be easily turned into an off-street bike path, Frederick County Planning Director Jim Gugel previously told The News-Post.

Gugel has personal experience with the Trolley Trail, having worked as a planner for Thurmont when the first stretch was created. Even then, however, he faced hurdles trying to expand the trail in town. Now, extending the trail outside the municipal limits would require an extra level of coordination.

“As this section of the H&F Trail would go into the County then there would need to be a coordinated effort with the Town,” Gugel said by email on Tuesday.

Most of Frederick County’s trolley lines closed in the 1950s, and since then, homes, sheds and driveways have been built near or through the easement. The right of way used by Potomac Edison is 30 to 35 feet wide, but it applies only to the overhead power lines and not the ground beneath it, according to the Bikeways and Trails plan.

The county would need to make individual agreements with property owners to access the former railway easement.

The county is working to hire a part-time bike and pedestrian planner, who would be in charge of coordinating this type of project, Gugel said.

Wildlands limit

Another possible hiccup in Kinnaird’s plan is that cyclists cannot legally access the section of Cunningham Falls State Park adjacent to U.S. 15, said park manager Mark Spurrier.

Due to the presence of several rare and protected species, no wheeled vehicles are allowed in the Manor Area of the park, he said. The state designated the mountainside adjacent to U.S. 15 as “wildlands,” which limits access to hikers only.

“I do support and I do think it’s a great idea to extend the trail to Catoctin Furnace,” Spurrier said Tuesday.

While he has not discussed the proposed loop with Kinnaird, Spurrier suggested exploring alternative routes to direct cyclists back to Thurmont without passing through the state park. One possible route would be along Catoctin Furnace Road, which runs parallel to U.S. 15 but has substantially less traffic.

Cyclists are also welcome to ride on Md. 77 and Catoctin Hollow Road near the park. The town and county could work with the State Highway Administration to see how cyclists could use U.S. 15 to access side roads on the park side of the highway, he suggested.

Due to the regulatory limits on cycling in Cunningham Falls State Park, Spurrier directs most cyclists to Gambrill State Park, which he also manages, and the city of Frederick watershed. There have been plenty of riders, he said.

“It’s a popular event and definitely something that’s catching on,” Spurrier said.

Both parks have hosted large cycling groups, who use the parking lots as rest areas. On weekends, it’s common to see packs of cyclists riding on side roads, he said.

Even with Cunningham Falls State Park’s limitations, Spurrier was open to seeing more cyclists in and around Thurmont.

“It could happen, but there’ll have to be more [people] involved than what I can do on my own,” Spurrier said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(6) comments

Joylee

How 'bout Thurmont do something that truly helps it's citizens. The recent projects have all been outrageously expensive and are only eye candy. Thurmont has some serious issues that are being largely ignored. Enough fluff, we need real improvement.

Lev928

The worst thing to do is connect the trail to Frederick City. It will be abused by bicyclists in their racing costumes and negatively affect the environment. Keep it local ONLY!

newspostreader

Would love to see this happen. I hope the county is willing to work with the town to make this happen.

Lev928

Agreed.

pappyjoe

This sounds to be a great idea Thurmont if, you can convince Frederick County for profit organization commission in giving right away and a break on the Benjamin accounts. Wildland as Kinnaird spoke of which only allows hiker access to. Is this area part of Camp David that includes Marines (rare to see species) and POTUS the protected one? A hiker can make more noise then a biker so is it a fear a bicyclist can mount a gatling gun on handle bar?

Lev928

pappyjoe .. This is not near Camp David nor any federally protected areas. It's at the bottom of the mountain in Thurmont and near RT 15.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!