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Bike lane to connect C&O towpath to W.Va. town

PAW PAW, W.Va. – Work is underway to install a dedicated, shared-use biking and hiking path along Md. 51 in Allegany County, Maryland, from the C&O Canal towpath trailhead on Oldtown Road to the Potomac River bridge leading to Paw Paw.

The trailhead leads to the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s Paw Paw Tunnel.

“The connection to the towpath is vital for Paw Paw,” Bill Clark, executive director of the Region 9 Planning and Development Council, said recently in a telephone interview.

Clark was the executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Authority. While with the MCEDA, he was involved in the proposed extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail through the Paw Paw Bends on the Potomac River.

The WMRT would have connected with the C&O Canal towpath just across the river from Paw Paw. The extension of the hiking and biking trail was expected to give Paw Paw’s economy a boost.

The trail extension was shelved when it was discovered that bats are roosting in the old railroad tunnels along the trail’s route. To protect them from being infected with the deadly fungus that causes white nose syndrome, human traffic must be kept out of the tunnels and there was no alternative route for the rail trail around the tunnels.

“The community of Paw Paw has always hosted lots of bikers from the C&O Canal,” Clark said. “With the bike lane, maybe more will be encouraged to come across the bridge to Paw Paw.”

Md. 51 becomes W.Va. 9 after crossing the Potomac. W.Va. 9 is Paw Paw’s main street to which bike lanes were added several years ago…

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