Comptroller visits proposed river park site

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Mar. 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 are hoping to construct 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 walking trails.

Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of Canal Place; Bill Atkinson, Allegany County commissioner; and Ashley Workman, Allegany County director of tourism, took Lierman on the tour of the site.

Prior to the walking tour, Lierman was updated on the project inside the Western Maryland Railway Station. Local officials have been raising funds and conducting environmental and engineering studies for the last few years in an effort to move the project forward.

Ritchie said she has seen progress in securing commitments of funding for the project.

"We've got $250,000 from state tourism and it looks like there might be some other money coming from Appalachian Regional Commission, and now we think we can complete 100% engineering design and permitting for the entire river park project," said Ritchie.

"Allegany County also made a request of (Maryland) Speaker (Adrienne) Jones for $25 million for the river park project," Atkinson said. "Now we understand that would be issued over a number of years."

Lierman said it seems like the project is moving forward.

"You are putting one foot in front of the other with a project like this," she said. "You keeping working at it over time and eventually you get there."

Atkinson said West Virginia is on board with the project. "They want to build a trail on their side of the river as well," he said.

Officials also hope to light the Blue Bridge between Cumberland and Ridgeley, West Virginia, with modern LED lighting as part of the project.

"The other great thing about this project, it's not just a river park and the tourism ... it's also an environmental project," said Atkinson. "We are going to clean up the river. We are going to take that dam out that's holding back all that sediment with all those years of industrial waste being dumped into the river. This river leads directly to the Chesapeake Bay, so there are a lot of positives."

Officials are also hoping to get the blessing of the Army Corps of Engineers to help move the project forward.

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.