Cost, timeline for project not yet determined

CUMBERLAND ‘” Officials with Canal Place said Tuesday they are encouraged by the number of grant opportunities that may be available to create the proposed river park behind the Western Maryland Railway Station.

News of the potential grant opportunities was disclosed at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority located in the railway station.

Known as the River Park at Canal Place, the attraction is expected to feature walking trails, parking, kayak and canoe docks, a spectator viewing area and a whitewater course in the North Branch of the Potomac River.

Designing the project and helping to identify the grants is Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. of West Virginia.

‘The project has tremendous potential for our area,’ said Janice Keene, chair of the Canal Place authority board. ‘The good news is that Jim Christie with CEC … we’ve been working with him (and) we have identified several state- and federal-level grants. I’ll give you example of some of them: Program Open Space, Community Parks and Playgrounds, Community Development Block Grant, DNR Boat Ramp Fund, Transportation Enhancement Fund, Recreational Trails, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Maryland Heritage Area Authorities and others. We are very pleased about this.’

Dee Dee Ritchie, Canal Place executive director, said a total price tag for the river park has not been established, but she expects the figures when a final report is issued on the project by the CEC in the next couple weeks.

Canal Place board member Al Feldstein asked that grant opportunities be pursued with West Virginia as well since part of the project will be on the West Virginia side of the river.

Ritchie and Keene said they met with Sen. George Edwards and the other members of the Western Maryland legislative delegation during the PACE event held last week.

Keene said they had two requests for the delegation: They wanted their support for the project, including their support for lowering the industrial dam below the Blue Bridge between Cumberland and Ridgeley, West Virginia.

The projects calls for the 20-foot industrial dam to be lowered 10 feet to increase the water depth and flow below the dam.

‘The project recommends lowering (the dam) approximately half way,’ said Keene. ‘It’s good from the environmental side and from the recreational side, and the fish passage.’

Keene said the delegation ‘agreed to do that. So we were very, very pleased with that.’

Ritchie said the River Park would be constructed in three phases.

‘Three different phases that allow us to prioritize what we want to do in the quickest way,’ said Ritchie. ‘The trail system that will circle the water park we’ll (construct) an asphalt parking lot, concrete sidewalks and a storm system. The next thing we would do after we get access for the trails, you have to get permission for that, is the access points for fishermen and canoes and kayaks. Last thing that we’ll do will be the whitewater features. There will be six different whitewater features. They will start from just above the dam and go on down to close to the trestle bridge at Carpendale.’

Ritchie said a timeframe for the project has not been developed. She said it would depend upon the timetable for securing the grants. Ritchie said the immediate step will be testing of the riverbed for the presence of toxins.

In other news from the meeting, officials said the Canal Place Task Force ‘” established by legislation in 2018 ‘” will need more time to complete its work. The task force is conducting a comprehensive review of the value and revenue potential for all entities making up the 13-acre Canal Place property. The review is to determine if Canal Place, which is state owned, should continue as is, or if all or part of the property should be marketed to private interests.

Officials with the task force were supposed to issue a report by June 2019. However, the volume of work and time needed for the multiple appraisals required for the property have caused delays.

Ritchie said a bill was submitted this week in Annapolis to grant an extension to the task force, with the final report expected by September.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.