With a dam rehabilitation project at Devil’s Backbone Park wrapping up under budget, Washington County officials agreed Tuesday to use surplus funds from the project to improve access to the area of the park on the east side of Antietam Creek.
Devil’s Backbone Park is on Md. 68 between Lappans Crossroads and Boonsboro.
The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to spend up to $125,000 to replace the erosion-prone gravel path along the east bank of the creek with a handicapped-accessible concrete path with a handrail.
The path is accessed by crossing a pedestrian bridge over the creek and leads to an area north of the dam with picnic tables and a swing set that is also a popular fishing spot, county Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said.
“Quite honestly, it’s probably some of the nicest parkland and recreation area at this particular park,” Kroboth said. “But prior to the project, it’s been pretty much inaccessible.”
The accessibility improvements will include modifications to make the east end of the pedestrian bridge handicapped-accessible, he said.
Commissioner William B. McKinley said he was familiar with the area.
“I can attest that except for the very driest part of the year, it’s almost impassable unless you have hip-waders,” he said. “For the general public, children, parents who want to picnic in that very nice park area, it’s just not available to them.”
Kroboth also said the project would reduce future maintenance costs. Now, after each heavy rain, the county must haul in gravel to fill and compact the path, he said.
Rehabilitation of Devil’s Backbone Dam was initiated in 2010 after the Maryland Department of the Environment deemed it unsafe due to severe erosion.
The commissioners opted for a solution that involved reinforcing the dam with concrete, reconstructing the existing stone masonry, and stabilizing eroded stream banks near the dam.
Aside from cleanup, that work is complete, Kroboth said.
The added work approved Tuesday will bring the full project cost to $1,495,000, still more than $83,000 under its budget of $1,578,316.
Most of the funding came from the state, Kroboth said.