Rail to trail becoming a reality in Mount Airy

Source: Frederick News Post
Author: Nancy Hernandez
Article Type:
Date Published: 11/03/2013

After two decades of wishful thinking, effort has begun in earnest to create a nature path in the heart of town. The trail will run alongside an abandoned rail line that folklore says played a role in the naming of Mount Airy. As the story goes, railroad workers were chiseling and blasting their way through Parr’s Ridge in the winter of 1839. Their goal was to create a safer and easier route for locomotives to traverse the steep incline. At the time, horses helped pull trains over the ridge using a series of plateaus near where Interstate 70 runs today. The journey was slow and dangerous. So B&O railroad officials decided to create a loop that would pass through a lower elevation. The route crossed directly over Main Street in what is now downtown, between Center Street and Prospect Road. One day, an Irish brakeman complained that due to the constant biting wind blowing on the ridge, the place should be named Mount Airy. The name stuck. The railroad line didn’t. Although passenger service ran until the 1950s, the route was largely abandoned around the 1970s. Today, a hardy group of volunteers are laboring with town officials to reclaim the line and convert it into a nature trail. For now, work is focused on a 1⁄3 mile stretch that connects Watkins Park with Main Street. The hope is to eventually continue the trail so that it runs from Village Oaks Drive to the wastewater treatment plant near the Nottingham and Twin Arch Crossing developments — an estimated distance of 2 1⁄2 miles.