James Rada, Jr.
Cunningham Falls State Park is a Thurmont treasure that all of Frederick County appreciates. This can be seen in the fact that the park recently won Best Place to Camp (Regional) and Best Place for a First Date (Non-Food) in the Frederick News Post’s annual “Best of the Best” contest.
During a March town meeting, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird called Cunningham Falls State Park “a great attraction for a lot of people who come to our community.”
The park isn’t resting on its laurels, as Park Manager Mark Spurrier told the Thurmont Commissioners during a recent meeting.
“We have a whole bunch of construction going on,” he explained.
The park has 300,000 to 400,000 visitors each year, with most of them coming to the lake to swim during the summer. Because many of the projects are targeted to improving the visit for these people, some inconveniences could happen during construction. The park service is trying its best to complete as much work as possible during the off season.
Some of the projects have already started. For some, it may be two years before they are complete. Many of the upgrades are needed since the park is over fifty years old.
Here are the improvements the park is making:
• Dual lane entry and new contact station. Since nearly all of the visitors to Cunningham Falls head to the lake, the line to enter the park often backs up. Adding a new entry lane and pay station should speed things up.
• Rehabilitated picnic pads. Forty picnic pads will have new tables and a grill all on a concrete slab. Some of the pads will be enlarged to fit more than one table.
• Nature center. The former beachfront store, which had originally been a bathroom, will now become at 334-square-foot nature center with a canopy that will allow for classes to be taught in warm weather.
• New bathroom. The bathroom near the boat rentals will be demolished and replaced with an entirely new facility. This project could cause headaches for visitors this summer because the materials being used in the new construction are taking up parking spots, which can be scarce in the summer.
• New beach. The south beach will have a new beachfront that will be designed to better hold the sand on the beach and not have it wash away. This will also include better stormwater management for the area.
• Museum of the Iron Furnace. The collier’s house at Catoctin Furnace will be rehabilitated and turned into a museum, with the help of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society. The museum will tell the story of the community built up around one industry.
• Stabilization of the Iron Master’s House. The work to stabilize the Iron Master’s house has been going on since 2014. The work is being done as grant funding is available. So far, $75,000 has been raised.
• Renovated camp store.
• Smaller projects. Smaller projects, or projects not so obvious to visitors, include a new storage shed, new water plant, sewer line repair, minor dam maintenance, and replacing the culverts along MD 77.