James Rada, Jr.
Emmitsburg Commissioner Tim O’Donnell was recently biking along the Emmitsburg Multi-User Trails, something he does multiple times a week. Whenever he meets someone on the trail whom he doesn’t know, he “puts on his commissioner hat” and stops to talk to them about where they are from and how they like the town. On this particular trip, he met people from Towson, Westminster, Baltimore City, and Freeland.
Austin Steo, with the Trail Conservancy, does the same thing when he uses the trail. “I have not heard anyone say a single, negative thing about the trail,” he said.
While it’s hard to determine how many people are using the trail, it gets hundreds of people looking at the map on the MTB Project website. It is ranked the No. 6 trail in Central Maryland and the No. 4 trail in Maryland.
“You can also tell by the wear and tear on the trail how much it’s being used,” said O’Donnell.
The Emmitsburg Multi-User Trails were dedicated on June 28, 2015. Years in the making, it came about with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Trail Conservancy and a $300,000 matching grant from Single Track Futures through the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Recreational Trail Program.
Emmitsburg’s matching part of the grant came primarily from more than 1,000 volunteer hours from the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts, International Bicycling Association, Boys Scouts, and Girl Scouts.
“The goal was for the trail to cost the town as little as possible,” O’Donnell said. He estimates that town staff put in around forty hours to review paperwork, give advice, and answer questions.
The trail offers terrain for beginners through advanced mountain bikers and hikers. It is hilly terrain with rocks, fields, and woods. The trails total 16.2 miles, with 7.2 miles of intermediate and advanced trail. Bikers can bike shorter sections because the trail is essentially put together in connected loops, or they can bike all of the loops multiple times for a longer ride.
“Don’t let the mileage fool you; the challenging, steep terrain packs more challenge into half the mileage of trail systems further east,” according to the MTB Project website.
The trails will only be open on Sundays during hunting season. When this happens, signs will be posted.
Other signage will probably be the next step in improving the trails. O’Donnell says that they hope in the near future to put up color-coded signage to help people stay on the trail they want to bike.
The trails are already helping promote tourism in town. O’Donnell says that a lot of time when bikers stop to eat, get gas, or shop in Emmitsburg, he hears about it from the business owner.
“They are using the facilities in town, which is what we want to happen,” O’Donnell said.
The trails took years to reach completion. It began about ten years ago when a Trail Task Force was formed that included members of the community, Mount St. Mary’s University, and town government. With a positive report, the project began moving forward.
“It’s a good project that allows people to enjoy our natural resources, and it shows that we are good stewards of the property,” O’Donnell said.
Steo said that he would like to see the town connect the trails to the town at Community Park. That way, bikers can park in town, get right on the trails, and when they return ready to eat or get a drink, they are already in town.
“Connection to the town at the park is key to the trails,” Steo said. “Very few places have that kind of opportunity.”
You can start the intermediate/advanced trail at Rainbow Lake. The beginner trail starts at the Annandale Road trailhead.