Public hopes for a contribution to the meeting of young hikers and cycle paths on Monday

August 4 – FRIENDSVILLE – A city hall meeting months after the $ 4.7 million budget for proposed routes along the Youghiogheny River protected areas is something of a gadget game, said John Bambacus.

“Hide the ball until you are in the end zone and then hit it,” he said.

Bambacus, a Frostburg resident, former state senator and mayor of Frostburg, referred to a meeting scheduled for 6:00 pm on Monday for a proposed excursion and bike path on the Youghiogheny River.

Of the. Wendell Beitzel, who organized the event, in a recent press release said that it will be held at Garrett College in room 111 of the Garrett Information Enterprise Center and will include “a presentation on the proposed path and financial procurement”.

The introduction is necessary because no plan has accompanied millions of dollars for the proposed routes in the designated wilderness areas of the Youghiogheny.

Guaranteed funds

Garrett Trails, which supports a proposed 150-mile loop route through Garrett County, last month said that in the 2022 legislative session, Beitzel and Senator George Edwards secured funding for DNR to explore “sustainable access to public land along the Youghiogheny River from Sang Run from State Park to Friendsville using portions of the existing C&O rail corridor. “

Senate Bill 291, signed in May by Governor Larry Hogan, included a $ 700,000 grant to the Garrett County Council of Commissioners “for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, remodeling. , reconstruction, site improvement and capital equipment of capital improvements at Sang Run State Park at the Youghiogheny River Trail Section 2 from Swallow Falls to Sang Run, including maintenance and repair projects. “

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The bill also allocated $ 4 million, which was amended from a previous $ 1 million list, in the Department of Natural Resources budget for section 3 of the Youghiogheny River Trail from Sang Run to the Kendall Trail in the county. by Garrett.

According to the DNR website, “In 1976 a 21-mile-long segment of the Youghiogheny was designated as Maryland’s first wild river. A state-protected corridor along the river runs from Miller’s Run, just north of Oakland, to the city of Friendsville. This corridor is operated by the Maryland Park Service to preserve wild and natural landscape, geological, historical, ecological, recreational, fish, wildlife and cultural resources. “

Public comment?

While several landowners in the Youghiogheny River area are hoping to speak at the meeting on Monday, it is unclear if they will be allowed.

Beitzel did not respond to a question from the Cumberland Times-News about whether public commentary will be allowed at the event.

Communication on the proposed routes has been lacking since the money appeared in DNR’s budget.

“Citizens need to know what their government is doing,” Bambacus said via email. “Those in public office have an obligation to be forthright in disseminating information to citizens in a timely manner, which is necessary to make informed decisions and hold elected officials accountable.”

The burden shouldn’t be on citizens to get critical capital budget information three months after the fact, he said.

“Transparency leads to a high level of trust and strengthens our democracy by allowing the public to scrutinize decision making,” Bambacus said.

DNR officials will not be present at the meeting, according to Department Media Relations Officer Gregg Bortz, who responded “on behalf of the governor’s office and our interim state forest ranger” to questions from the Cumberland Times. News on Maryland officials planning to attend Monday’s speech, and their views on funding and proposed pathways.

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“DNR has not solicited and is not reviewing or considering any plans or proposals for a runway,” he said via email. “If there was a plan, it would be developed by DNR through our process which includes meaningful opportunities for public input and comment.”

Since that process hasn’t started, DNR staff “don’t attend public meetings,” Bortz said.

Teresa McMinn is the digital editor of the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.

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