I thought I knew where all the local rail trail opportunities were, but it turns out I was wrong.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been awarded a $1 million federal grant to preserve 220 acres of the Popes Creek watershed as part of a county project establishing a new rail trail along the abandoned Popes Creek rail bed.
Here's a map of where this rail bed is, and here's how the article describes it.
Still in the “embryonic stage,” the trail would follow the old rail line, which runs about two miles from the Potomac River to U.S. 301 in Faulkner, incorporate a trestle that spans Popes Creek and highlight the waterway’s biodiversity, Robinson said.
It's pretty hard to see from satellite photos, since it appears the rail was pulled out years ago. Anyway,
Though the grant is primarily for conservation of the wetland, “the real jewel is the ability to use these funds to create a new rail trail,” Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said. “Having hiked the trail once, this is very special.”
The county has been interested in turning the Popes Creek rail bed into a hiker-biker trail for 14 years, Roland said. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., assembled the grant and has partnered with the county in negotiating the land purchase.
The county is hoping to complete land acquisition by the end of summer, he said.
Once the land is purchased, it will not be accessible to the public until the trail is completed, which “will probably take a couple years,” Roland said.
The county hopes to duplicate the success of the Indian Head Rail Trail, which has attracted more than 100,000 visitors annually since opening in 2009, Roland said.
While this project is good, it will probably never be as successful as the Indian Head Rail Trail. It's farther from DC and, at only 2 miles long, it's not really worth going there to ride it. Still it will be a nice amenity and might make for a good place to run or walk. The stone surface, as oppossed to blacktop, won't help attract cyclists either (not that that is the end of the world).
“Because of the success of the Indian Head Rail Trail, we know what a magnet hiker-biker trails are for attracting not only county residents but visitors from all over the region,” he said. “We’re hoping we can attract folks from the other side of the bridge in King George County, Va., as well as providing another recreation area for our citizens.”
But wait, there's more
The project also could include the purchase and renovation of the old Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative power plant at Popes Creek, which sits near the railroad’s terminus on the Potomac River and along the same stretch as Captain Billy’s and Gilligan’s Pier restaurants.
Built in 1938 and shut down 15 years later, the building is noteworthy as the first generating station to serve Southern Maryland, and for its flat-roofed, brick structure and arched windows.
“Architecturally, it’s gorgeous,” Robinson said, adding that the building could be converted into a mixed-use visitors center and rest stop for hikers and bikers.
Some of the trail’s amenities ultimately could be funded as capital improvement projects or using leftover funding from the Indian Head trail, Robinson said.
Leftover funding? Rail trail comes in under budget!