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Emmitsburg "co-sponsor’ grant to expand trails

(4/19) The Emmitsburg Town Council voted to "co-sponsor" a $30,000 state grant to the Trail Conservancy. The Trail Conservancy is an non-profit organization that assists communities in developing natural surface trails. It has been involved with Emmitsburg’s trail efforts for many years and is headed by Austin Steo of Emmitsburg.

The ‘co-sponsor" vote was taken to meet the terms of the State grant which requires that the Conservancy secure an appropriate government agency to serve as a co-sponsor. While it is considered a co-sponsor – as in past grants, none of the $30,000 will actually enter the town’s coffers. Instead, the Conservancy will be responsible for overseeing the proper expenditure of the funds.

Emmitbsurg, for its part, will be responsible for verify that all trail development and construction meet town codes – much in the same way it handles any contractor operating on Town property. While there will be a cost to the town to provide oversight, it will represent just a fraction of the overall cost of the planned expansion of the popular trail program.

The grant also requires at Trail Conservancy to match 20% of the grant, which the Conservancy does through its contribution of volunteer labor. According to Town Council President, and trail advocate, Tim O’Donnell: "the Emmitsburg’s Multi User Trail Program is an ongoing effort which has been bolstered by over 1,000 hours of volunteer work completed by Town residents, scouts, church groups, schools, businesses, mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners, hunters, Mount faculty & students."

The Rainbow Lake Multi User Trail Program was initially proposed in 2004 with the goal of creating some 20 to 25 miles worth of trails that will be accessible to mountain bikers and pedestrians. Work on the trail began in 2011 and the trail was officially opened in June of last year.

The Conservancy actually received a $40,000 grant for work on the Multi User Trail Program, but $10,000 was dedicated in the Conservancy grant proposal towards development of a parking lot and additional signage for the trails. Unfortunately, the Conservancy’s estimate was the parking area and signage was low, which might have resulted in the Town occurring a cost to complete those project – something that goes against the over all goal of O’Donnell who wishes to complete the trails at no cost to the Emmitsburg tax payers. So the town council opted just to accept that portion of the grant related to trail development.

While acknowledging that trails are important in the sense that they bring people who are using the trails such as cyclists, hikers and members of the hunting and fishing community to the town to spend money within the town thereby supporting town businesses, Commissioner Joe Ritz noted that placing a parking lot on the mountain to accommodate trail users when the town can’t seem to get a parking lot in town where public parking is already an issue seemed wrong. Ritz called on his fellow Board members to consider the placement of a parking lot within the town itself to accommodate the public.

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