Aug. 4 – FRIENDSVILLE – A town hall meeting months after $4.7 million was budgeted for proposed trails along the protected areas of the Youghiogheny River is a bit like a gimmick, John Bambacus said.
“Hide the ball until you’re in the end zone and then steal it,” he said.
Bambacus, a Frostburg resident and former senator and mayor of Frostburg, referred to a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday for a hiking and biking trail project on the Youghiogheny River.
Of the. Wendell Beitzel, who organized the event, said in a recent press release 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 course and funding sourcing.” .
The introduction is necessary as no plan comes with millions of dollars for the proposed trails in Youghiogheny’s designated wilderness areas.
Garrett Trails, which supports a 150-mile loop trail project through Garrett County, said last month that during the 2022 legislative session, Beitzel and Sen. George Edwards secured funding for the DNR to explore “Sustainable access to public lands along the Youghiogheny River from Sang Run State Park to Friendsville using portions of the existing C&O Rail Corridor.”
Senate Bill 291, signed into law in May by Gov. Larry Hogan, included a $700,000 grant to the Garrett County Board of Commissioners “for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement and capital equipment of capital improvements at Sang Run State Park at Section 2 of the Youghiogheny River Trail from Swallow Falls to Sang Run, including maintenance and repair projects.
The bill also allocated $4 million, which was changed from an earlier list of $1 million, to the Department of Natural Resources budget for Section 3 of the Youghiogheny River Trail from Sang Run to Kendall trail in Garrett County.
According to the DNR website, “In 1976, a 21-mile-long segment of the Youghiogheny was designated Maryland’s first wilderness river. A state-protected corridor along the river runs from Miller’s Run just to the north of Oakland to the town of Friendsville This corridor is managed by the Maryland Park Service to preserve scenic, geological, historic, ecological, recreational, fisheries, wildlife, and wild and natural cultural resources.
While several landowners in the Youghiogheny River area hope to speak at Monday’s meeting, it is unclear whether they will be allowed.
Beitzel did not respond to a question from the Cumberland Times-News about whether public comment will be allowed at the event.
Communication about the proposed trails has been lacking since the money appeared in the MNR budget.
“Citizens need to know what their government is doing,” Bambacus said by email. “Those who hold public office have an obligation to be forthright in disclosing to citizens in a timely manner the information needed to make informed decisions and hold elected officials accountable.”
It shouldn’t be on citizens to get critical information on the capital budget 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 the decision-making process,” Bambacus said.
DNR officials will not be at the meeting, according to the department’s media relations officer, Gregg Bortz, who responded “on behalf of the governor’s office and our acting state forester” to requests from the Cumberland Times. -News on whether Maryland officials plan to attend Monday’s conference, and their views on proposed funding and trails.
“The MNR has not solicited and is not reviewing or considering any trail plans or proposals,” he said by email. “If there were to be a plan, it would be developed by MNR through our process which includes significant opportunity for public input and comment.”
Since this process has not begun, DNR personnel “do not participate in public meetings,” Bortz said.
Teresa McMinn is the digital editor of the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.