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Town trolley projects awarded $55,000

(3/20) Thurmont’s trolley projects received a large boost last week with $55,000 in grants from the State of Maryland. A $30,000 Community Legacy grant will help restore the old Thurmont trolley car that is sitting on East Main Street next to the electric substation and $25,000 will go to the Thurmont Lions Club to complete their development of the trolley path into a walking/exercise trail.

John Kinnaird with the Thurmont Historical Society has been championing the return of the trolley to Thurmont. When the opportunity arose to get an original Thurmont trolley from a Pennsylvania trolley museum in late 2005, he arranged for around $10,000 in equipment and labor to get the old baggage car to town. Since then, not much has been done with it because of a lack of funds and the need to establish ownership.

This grant, however, changes that. The money will pay for a final coat of paint, a new roof on the trolley, new windows, door repairs, wheels and tracks for the trolley. Then when the town decommissions the electric substation, as the town commissioners have discussed, Kinnaird will seek to finish his plan.

“My long-term plan is to incorporate it with the building and make it the visitor center for Thurmont,” Kinnaird said.

He said the electric substation is just the right size for a visitors’ center and once the equipment is removed from behind the building, there would be plenty of room for parking. For its part, the trolley would house displays or videos about the town.

The trolley path project had already received one $25,000 grant from the state. That was enough to create a usable walking path on the old Thurmont trolley right of way.

“This one’s been easier,” said Thurmont Main Street Manager Vickie Grinder, who applied for the grant and will manage it. “Last year was our first breakthrough and we didn’t know what to expect. This time we were renewing the grant, so we had a lot of what we need.”

Shirley Long, who has been managing the project for the Lions Club, said, “This grant will allow us to do some of the extras we really hope to do. It gives us a chance to dress up the trail a bit.”

The money will pay for lighting along the trail, benches and exercise stations.

Thurmont received two out of three Community Legacy grants for which it applied, and in the full amounts requested. These grants were two of 73 projects from 43 municipalities across the state that received funding, announced by Gov. Martin O’Malley on March 13. Local officials applied for $133 million, but only $7 million received funding.

“Even to walk away from there with $5,000 would have been a win for Thurmont,” Grinder said. “We’re ecstatic about it.”

She said that Thurmont getting its name before decision makers in a positive way will only help the town. If officials start to remember Thurmont, then they will likely think favorably about it when the time comes to make funding decisions.

“I really believe it makes a difference and helps us,” Grinder said.

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development awards the Community Legacy grants, funding local economic development activities to help strengthen communities.

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