Cumberland Times-News

February 18, 2013

ATV riding trails a possibility in Allegany County

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A recreational developer wants to bring a series of legal off-road riding areas to Allegany County for use by all-terrain and other vehicles.

Key to any trail system would be cooperation between the state and developers involving liability issues and the use of reclaimed strip mine lands.

“It’s in the very early stages,” said Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine.

The closure of trails in the Green Ridge State Forest in 2011 is estimated to have cost the county economy about $1.2 million from spending by the use of the trails, Valentine said. Except as a beneficiary of economic gains, the county will not be financially involved in the project, he said.

The proposal, among other items, may be discussed at an upcoming Maryland Department of Natural Resources public meeting.

The DNR is asking residents for their input on outdoor recreation facilities and services.

The Regional Stakeholder Recreation Evaluation public meeting for the Western Region will be held March 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Allegany College of Maryland in the Continuing Education Building Room 8. Valentine said this is an opportunity for residents to express support for off-road vehicle trails.

In May 2011, the DNR closed three of the state’s off-road vehicle trails — Green Ridge, Chandler and Poplar Lick trails.

The roads were closed because of a forest certification audit. The audit was part of the state’s effort to receive dual certification for all three Western Maryland state forests.

The move was made to protect environmental features of the forests.

Green Ridge Trail is part of Green Ridge State Forest; Poplar Lick Trail is in Savage River State Forest; and Chandler ORV trail winds through Pocomoke State Forest.

The developer is also interested in creating trails in Garrett County, Valentine said.

“We have a problem in Georges Creek with four-wheelers on the roads,” Valentine said.

If the trails are created, it could help with that problem, Valentine said.

A small fee for a pass would be attractive for recreational riders compared to a fine and court date, Valentine said. Snowmobiling in the winter might also be a possibility on the trails, he said.

The county isn’t formally involved in the project, but is helping the developer with contacts needed to try and move the plan forward, Valentine said.

State officials would have to grant a use lease for the property and free the developer from liability for accidents. The county is also helping the potential developer comply with all environmental guidelines and make sure any concerns are addressed on the front end of the project, Valentine said.

“We want to make sure it’s done properly,” he said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.