March 18 — CUMBERLAND — Local officials took Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman on a tour Friday of the site of a proposed $30 million river park in downtown Cumberland.
Officials hope to build the river park behind Canal Place along the Potomac River. The attraction is expected to feature docks for canoes and kayaks, a moderate whitewater course, a viewing area, and hiking trails.
Dee Dee Ritchie, managing director of Canal Place; Bill Atkinson, Allegany County Commissioner; and Allegany County Tourism Director Ashley Workman took Lierman to tour the site.
Before the tour, Lierman was briefed on the project at the Western Maryland Railway Station. Local officials have been raising funds and conducting environmental and engineering studies to advance the project in recent years.
Ritchie said she has seen progress in securing funding commitments for the project.
“We have received $250,000 from State Tourism and it looks like there may be more funding coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission and now we believe we have 100% engineering and permitting for the entire river park project complete,” said Ritchie.
“Allegany County has also received a request from (Maryland) Speaker (Adrienne) Jones for $25 million for the river park project,” Atkinson said. “Now we know that would be on display for several years.”
Lierman said it appears the project is moving forward.
“In a project like this, you put one foot in front of the other,” she says. “You keep working at it over time and eventually you get there.”
Atkinson said West Virginia was involved in the project. “They also want to build a trail on their side of the river,” he said.
Officials also hope to use modern LED lighting to illuminate the Blue Bridge between Cumberland and Ridgeley, West Virginia, as part of the project.
“The other great thing about this project is that it’s not just a river park and tourism…it’s also an environmental project,” Atkinson said. “We’re going to clean up the river. We’re going to take out this dam that’s holding back all the sediment that’s been dumped into the river over the years from industrial waste. This river goes straight to the Chesapeake Bay, so there’s a lot of positives.”
Officials are also hoping for the blessing of the Army Corps of Engineers to move the project forward.
Greg Larry is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.