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This is an outstanding survey of potential trail tunnels in the region. Of those listed, the three abandoned tunnels in Western Maryland have (or had) the most potential for trail use because they are already owned by the National Park Service and are a natural fit with the ongoing extension of the Western Maryland trail. Integration of the tunnels, combined with several nearby bridge crossings of the Potomac, into the trail would make this scenic area of Maryland and West Virginia a national and international destination for recreational tourism.

This makes the decision by NPS to bypass these three tunnels because of bat habitat particularly frustrating. While preservation of wildlife is a noble goal, only one (1) federally-endangered bat, a single Indiana Bat, was claimed to be found in the three tunnels. That is not enough to pose any threat to their survival as a species. The estimated population of the Indiana Bat is more than 500,000, most of which reside in Indiana and Missouri, with no significant numbers found in Maryland or West Virginia.

The Maryland DNR also found that another species, the Eastern small-footed bat, was at risk from the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later found that this finding was not supported by the evidence:

"While other species of hibernating bats have experienced mass mortality due to WNS, there is no indication of a population-level decline in eastern small-footed bat based on winter survey data. A review of pre-WNS and post-WNS hibernacula count data over multiple years finds that post-WNS counts were within the normal observed range at the majority of sites analyzed."

See 78 Fed. Reg. 61072, October 2, 2013.

The NPS therefore nixed the three tunnels based on a virtually non-existent threat to any local or national bat populations. Humans and bats can and do coexist in trail tunnels (e.g., Caprocks Canyon Trail (Texas), Historic Railroad Trail (Nevada) and the Elroy-Sparta Trail (Wisconsin)), with no adverse effects. Even assuming that human activity might disturb the winter hibernation, the WM tunnels could be closed in the winter similar to the Big Savage in Pennsylvania.

The NPS should revisit and reverse their misguided decision, made under the previous administration without any meaningful public input, to bypass these tunnels.

These have been fun, thanks.

I would almost take exception that the Lough Tunnel is in the middle of nowhere. Elk City is there and it's got "City" right in the name! :)

I've spent a fair amount of time kayaking the Tygart in that area. Went into that little town once and they were having a festival of some sort and the place was jammed. I guess what I mean is, if you have things there for people to do, they will generally be used. And it's not far from I-79 and Route 50.

But with the shortage of funds we are now likely to see for the forseeable future, yeah, it's probably not going to be a priority.

I'll admit to not knowing the area, but the rail line itself is a spur to an old coal mine and it doesn't pass through a town. The think about WV (and PA too) is that it has probably 1000 miles of abandoned railroad and only so much money (and there are diminishing returns to each new trail built for tourism/recreation) so they need to be picky. If I were running the show there, I'd limit myself to corridors that pass through a town for now - and just try to secure the rest for later. I think a lot of their rail corridors could be turned into hiking trails with little effort and then maybe upgraded later.

I was an extra on a sci-fi short film that was filmed in the Dupont Underground a couple years ago. December 2015, I think. "Moonshot" is now available on Amazon. You can watch it for free with ads. It's 21 minutes long.

Anyway, the first part was filmed in the Dupont Underground, before it had been cleaned up for the art galery project. Some of the old food stalls from the former food court were still there, along with a lot of discarded wood, knick-knacks and lots and lots of dust.

To move around from one shooting location to the other, some of the crew members would ride a bicycle through the very dark tunnels under Dupont Circle. I tried to take a photo of them riding the bike but it didn't turn out well because of the lack of lighting.

No bikes in the final movie that I'm aware of.

Of course the Dupont Underground still hasn't become a pedestrian/bike path. But at least for one day, people were (legally) riding bikes through the old trolley tunnels under Dupont Circle.


P.S. The movie stars Luvia Petersen. Sci-fi fans may recognize her as "Garza" from the Canadian sci-fi series "Continuum," which also aired on the Syfy Channel in the U.S.


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