Cycle club members take over job of GAP trail ambassadors

Chris McCagh-Herring and Nancy Twigg, members of the Western MD Wheelmen, are replacing Larry Brock on the Allegheny Trail Alliance and the Allegheny Trail Ambassadors. 

CUMBERLAND — It will take take two people to replace Larry Brock on the Allegheny Trail Alliance and on the Allegheny Trail Ambassadors. Members of the Western MD Wheelmen, Chris McCagh-Herring and Nancy Twigg, are uniting to continue the work of the trail ambassadors along the Great Allegheny Passage. They hosted the first Plus One trail ambassador event as a kickoff and orientation for the 43 people who attended.

Twigg and McCagh-Herring will represent bicyclists on the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a group of seven organizations that supports the 150 miles of rail-trail between Cumberland and Pittsburgh. They expressed appreciation for Brock’s efforts over the years.

When the idea of creating the trail was first conceptualized, in 1988, Brock was there. Feasibility studies occurred and funding had to be found. The first federal funds were secured in 1992, and the steering committee began to meet monthly. In 1994, Brock served on the committee appointed by the Allegany County commissioners to find additional funds.

The former Allegheny Power contributed funds, and the goal was to open the trail in 2001. Time and energy was spent and setbacks occurred, but the Great Allegheny Passage opened section by section, and ridership increased. In 2008, 52,000 trail users were counted, and by 2019, the number of trail users was 100,000.

Cumberland now has an identity as “Trail Town hub,” with its unique location of being the end of the C&O Canal towpath and the beginning of the GAP.

Brock has been involved with trail issues for years. He has ridden the length of the C&O/GAP approximately 25 times and was president of the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Mountain Maryland Trails from 1997 to 2000. Brock explained that funding for the trail is one-eighth private funds and the rest state and federal funding.

Brock began the Trail Ambassadors for the Great Allegheny Passage to support individuals like the C&O Bike Patrol did for the towpath. He worked with Kurt Detwiler and Silvester Shultz to make that happen. Brock is invested in the ridership and has given out over 1,500 free ice cream cone vouchers that he has paid for out of his own pocket. He said, “They get folks off the trail and into Cumberland.”

Brock initiated the 3M Bike Challenge for Man vs. Machine vs. Mountain where teams of sponsored bicyclists are pitted against the time the train takes to get from Cumberland to Frostburg. The proceeds go toward trail maintenance. The next 3M Bike Challenge is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Brock shared that he was a runner before switching to bicycling, “when father time interfered.” He biked across the U.S. in 2001 and he has ridden in “50 in 50” of the United States. He has been a tour leader for Adventure Cycling, introducing at least nine tour groups to the joys of biking from Washington to Pittsburgh. Brock is a past president of the Western MD Wheelmen Bike club. Valerie Van Hollen, bike club vice president, cited Brock as the impetus behind the Bikes for the World bike collection which occurs each year with support from the Cumberland Rotary.

Brock is president of Mountain Maryland Trails. He instituted the regular Tuesday Night Trail rides that the Western Maryland Wheelmen continue.

For more information about the Trail Ambassador Program, contact nancy.twigg@gmail.com or clarkin79@gmail.com. Information is available about the Western Maryland Wheelmen on Facebook and information about the trail is available at gaptrail.org.

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