(12/29) A task force created by
James E. Hoover to study and make recommendations regarding a possible
recreational trail system spanning town and Mount St. Mary's University lands
is expected to make a final report this coming July.
The possibility of a trail system came before the town
at their Aug. 15, 2005, meeting when resident Tim O'Donnell, now a town
planning and zoning commission alternate member, encouraged the board to back a
proposal to establish bike trails, and possibly multi-user trails, on town
The task force is to look at a number of related topics
ranging from liability issues to trail maintenance to project costs. The Mount
may be prepared to go it alone, involving only university property, if the town
opts not to participate in a joint effort.
Blazing the trail
Following up on a request that the town consider
establishing a trail system, suggested by O'Donnell and supported by
Commissioner Glenn Blanchard, Hoover created a mayoral task force to look into
the possible development of a trail complex, possibly tied to a similar trail
system that could be developed by Mount St. Mary's University.
Hoover told The Dispatch Nov. 18 that the reasoning
behind establishing the Emmitsburg Area Trails Task Force was his concern that
"a trail plan may be created with an insufficient amount of accurate
information" and that important facets could be overlooked if the path toward
completing a plan was blazed too quickly.
As a result, the mayor "requested the town manager
(David Haller) to establish this task force to set the ground work, and that
included the feasibility of putting trails up there on the (town) watershed
The mayoral-appointed task force includes Haller, local
realtor Donald Briggs, O'Donnell and, Mount St. Mary's University Director of
Institutional and Government Relations Joseph Lebherz.
The town owns about 1,300 acres of land outside the
corporate limits, of which the task force is considering about 750 acres for
inclusion in the trail plan. All of the land outside town that is owned by the
town is watershed property.
The trail package under consideration may also include
600 acres of the Mount's land, and about 550 acres of town land under the
auspices of the Catoctin Land Trust (which co-holds the easements with the
Maryland Environmental Trust).
Paving the way
Being undeveloped, the lands involved could contain
critical habitats for animals and plants, and also involve properties that
recharge the town and the Mount's water supplies. Haller said the lands
immediately surrounding Rainbow Lake, which serves as the town's reservoir,
would likely be off limits for security reasons.
Developing an environmental resource inventory is, in
fact, the current topic of discussion before the task force, as well a way to
finance such a study, and was one of the principal points of discussion at the
task force's November meeting.
Briggs described the development of a resource
inventory as one of the "key steps" that must be taken to move the project
forward. "It's kind of a big plan," Briggs told The Dispatch, adding that it
would "open up that recreational resource (mountain properties). "
According to the task force, some form of public
recreational trail system could be opened by summer 2008, and could include
some or all of the lands presently under consideration. At the very least, the
Mount may opt to proceed with trails proposed on their lands.
Briggs said he would eventually like to see a trail
system running from the Emmitsburg area "all the way down to Frederick."
The task force will continue to meet at the discretion
of its members. Thus far, the meetings have generally been monthly in an effort
to meet their July 2007 report deadline.
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