By Emily Ranson - December 22, 2014
After we stopped in Williamsport, Nate, Mary, and I went to Garrett County to meet with Garrett Trails and others. The first order of business was the Garrett Trails board meeting where Executive Director Steve Storck gave Nate the floor to explain who we are and what we do.
Garrett Trails has an interesting board with active advisers. Unlike other organizations, Garrett Trails is almost quasi-governmental. Their advisers come from various local, county, and state agencies and are encouraged by their employers to attend Garrett Trails meetings. For example, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Garrett County Community Development, Garrett County commissioners, and the mayor of Oakland were all in attendance. The Chamber of Commerce hosts the meetings in one of their conference rooms and will feature Garrett Trails’ maps when they are completed. This partnership continues on the Garrett Trails side where they apply for grants to pay for, build, and maintain trails throughout the county for users. Garrett County does not have a Parks and Recreation department, unlike other counties in Maryland.
Garrett Trails has been successful at winning a myriad of grants, but they have difficulty paying for the administration side of the grants. The grants pay for the physical work but do not pay for the salary of their part-time executive director, Steve Storck. Steve works half-time with Garrett Trails and also works at Garrett College, although the board wishes he could devote 100% of his time to the important work that Garrett Trails does. How it stands now, they devote almost every penny they have into the local match portion of the grants they win to maximize their funding for trail work, which is great for now. But, they know that if the trail system is going to grow, they need at least one full-time staff member to manage the grants and capacity, pursue new opportunities, and spend more time in the day-to-day details of negotiating easements, planning trails, and quickly responding to new issues as their pop up with their expanding trail system.
Part of their work includes connecting state land through off-road trails, tapping into the huge potential of land that exists in Garrett County. The new owners of Wisp are working on revitalizing their trail opportunities on the mountain to transform the area into the mountain biking destination that it could be. Garrett Trail’s plan is that one day you will be able to bike on maintained and legal trails from Wisp to Fork Run to Swallow Falls to Herrington Manor. Garrett County is just about thirty percent public land and it should have miles of interconnected trails for hiking and biking. Garrett Trails is spearheading the charge to provide this amenity to residents and tourists.
However, they are not entirely a recreational organization. Garrett Trails will lend their support to transportation causes. They have prioritized a side path for pedestrians and bicyclists to connect Garrett College to McHenry. Currently students and community members coming from or to the college have to bike and walk along a road with no shoulders and gullies along its edges. Many students do not have access to cars, making this walk or bike trek a necessity to get to work or grocery stories…plus, walking and biking are the healthy choice for short trips like these and students and community members should be encouraged and given safe space to walk or bike.
It was great getting together with Garrett Trails, and knowing that Garrett County has a capable group keeping an eye out for bicycling (and walking). We are looking forward to the Taste of Garrett and Garrett County Gran Fondo in June!