Western Maryland Rail Trail: Pearre Station to Paw Paw
The National Park Service, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in partnership with the States of Maryland and West Virginia, prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate an extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) from Pearre Station (near C&O Canal Lock 56) to the public access parking lot of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP)/Paw Paw Tunnel near Paw Paw, WV. The project area, analyzed within the EA, was approximately 15 miles.
The purpose of the project is to provide an extension of the WMRT to support the park's mission; provide users of all ages with an additional opportunity for an accessible, level-graded greenway that showcases the early 20th century railroad industry and its interaction with the natural environment; and provide for connectivity to the larger trail system in the region.
• Supports the mission of the C&O Canal NHP by providing for scenic views, recreational experiences, and historic opportunities of the Potomac River Valley;
• Accommodates different types of uses and users that are not fully supported by the C&O canal towpath;
• Resolves safety issues related to the abandoned railway corridor including bridges not being maintained and hazardous materials from former railway uses; and
• Provides for direct links and connectivity for a more seamless regional trail network consistent with NPS directive for seamless parks.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the environmental assessment (EA) was developed to evaluate potential impacts to park resources if the project was undertaken. The public was invited to provide comments during the initial public scoping period, which rand from November 16, 2010 through December 23, 2010. Two public meetings were held on November 16 and 17 during the scoping Comments received during the scoping period were used to formulate the project's evaluation.
A second public scoping period was conducted to gather information and comments about the project's preliminary alternatives. This 30-day review period ran from July 15, 2011 through August 15, 2011. Two public meetings were held on July 13 and 14.
The EA was made available for public review and comment beginning April 27, 2012 through June 1, 2012. Public meetings were held on May 16 and 17.
In accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106, consultation has been undertaken with the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) and West Virginia Division of Culture and History WV DCH). On July 11, 2012, the MHT issued a finding of no adverse effect. On July 19, 2012, WV DCH also issued a finding of no significant impact. Both agencies stated that further consultation will continue as project design and development move forward.
Project scoping and consultation with federal and state review agencies and project stakeholders was also conducted throughout the course of the EA process.
A Finding of No Significant Impact was signed on September 11, 2012. The project's preferred alternative, Alternative C: Extend the western Maryland Rail Trail from Pearre, Maryland to the Stickpile Tunnel and from Paw Paw, West Virginia to Potomac River Bridge #5, has been approved to move forward.
For further information regarding this project, please contact;
National Park Service
Denver Service Center – Transportation Division
CHOH WMRT EA Planning Team
12795 West Alameda Parkway
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225-0287