OK, that's two things.
(Senior Editor Shannon Morgan will be writing about Park Quest in a future issue of Maryland Life. In short: it's awesome for families).
On a recent weekend, I set out for the Western Maryland Rail Trail on my 15+ year-old Trek touring bike. Though it was blazingly hot outside, a ten mile-per-hour pace and a canopy of trees provided a gentle, refreshing breeze as I pedaled from Big Pool (near Fort Frederick State Park) to Hancock, west, only 11 miles away.
The path, 10-feet wide, is paved and flat and beautifully picturesque. Even with other bicyclists on the path, a handful of runners, and a couple families with their leashed dogs, I never felt a sense of being overcrowded. Rather, the word that comes to mind was serene.
That's it: Biking on the Western Maryland Rail Trail was (and is) beautifully serene.
"It's been called a 'cathedral in the trees' by a bicycle club from Virginia, and I agree!" says Tom Riford, President and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County CVB (and the one person I turn to for all-things-tourism in Washington County).
"It is also a great economic boon for Hancock and Western Washington County -- an independent economic impact study has shown that the trail generates about $3 million dollars in local economic impact."
This makes perfect sense, of course. After a nice ride into Hancock, I went to Weaver's Restaurant for a glass of iced tea and a slice of coconut cream pie, which is reason enough to bike to Hancock.
While my purchase didn't add up to $3 million, I'm sure the few dollars I did spend will be reflected in a future economic impact study.
Tom tells me, as well, that the Rail Trail will soon be extended from Pearre in Allegany County to Paw Paw Bends – 14 additional miles – which will increase the length of the trail from 22 to 34 miles. I've cycled the Rail Trail twice now and I look forward to biking its entire length soon.
Happily, Maryland is blessed with tons of bike trails throughout the state.
What are some of your favorites?
Dan Patrell is the publisher of Maryland Life.