People with strong opinions for and against a possible 23-mile bike trail packed steamy Boonsboro’s fire hall Thursday night.
The proposal is in its early, formative stage. Joseph Kroboth III, Washington County’s public works director, said there’s no local, state or federal money committed to the project, which has been estimated to cost about $16 million.
Some at the meeting spoke in favor of the appeal of a new avenue for healthy exercise, and the possible tourism and economic development draw that a trail might have.
Others criticized the proposed Civil War Railroad Trail, calling it an intrusion and a potential financial boondoggle. Some wondered why it was coming back 20 years after a similar attempt was defeated.
Ann Corcoran of Keedysville blasted the Republican members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners who support the plan, accusing them of abandoning the party’s conservative fiscal principles.
“What were you thinking?,” she asked.
But avid cyclists, such as Winslow Wheeler of Hagerstown, said the trail could be a boon for the area and for future generations.
David Hunter of Keep Tryst Road read aloud a letter from residents in his neighborhood, highlighting the history of the area.
Kroboth said Phase 1 would run from Keedysville to Hagerstown and would take about 13 years to complete. Phase 2, from Keedysville to Weverton, would take an estimated 15 years more.
He said that because the attempt 20 years ago to build a trail was not completely open, it was important to hold a town meeting now and “overcaffeinate the public involvement.”
Well over 200 people attended, filling a sweltering upstairs meeting room, as speakers alternated between those in favor and those opposed.
One proponent said war veterans who have suffered debilitating injuries are looking forward to a possible new outlet for rehabilitation.
But skeptics brought up concerns such as the likelihood of increased traffic and crime, the potential of trail users using local yards as bathrooms and even the difficulty of farmers trying to lead their cows across the trail to get to a pasture.
While some doubted that users would buy more than water and trail bars, some cyclists said they spend money on lodging and restaurants when they take trips to other rail-trails.
Dozens of people spoke, mainly sticking to a three-minute time limit. Organizers promised to keep the meeting going until everyone had a chance to comment.
Some county and state elected officials attended the meeting and listened.
In a letter he shared withThe Herald-Mailearlier in the day, state Sen.Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, wrote that he opposes the project for several reasons, including the infringement on private property rights, the cost and the potential for liability problems.
The public comment period will stay open for 10 additional days. People can email their thoughts to email@example.com or send them to Kroboth at the Washington County Division of Public Works, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.
Kroboth said another public meeting will be held in the next month or two. Two organizations, one for the proposed trail and one against, will be invited to present their sides for about 30 minutes apiece, he said.