Meeting with DNR Secretary Belton

On July 20th 2015 we met with Mark J. Belton, Secretary of Natural Resources, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Land, Darryl Anthony and Paul Peditto, Director of the Wildlife & Heritage Service. Assistant Secretary Anthony’s appointment was quite a surprise and was literally announced minutes before the meeting. Prior to his appointment, Assistant Secretary Anthony was the DNR Parks Manager for western MD. He is a off-road enthusiast as well as a dirt bike rider and a mountain biker. We are extremely excited about his appointment.

We had a very positive meeting with the Secretary and Assistant Secretary. We focused on OHV recreational tourism and the economic benefit to rural counties, and public/private partnerships using reclaimed coal mines. We specifically asked him to ensure that the Savage River trail opens next year. Our community has waited almost 5 years for the promised establishment of a public OHV area and it is time to deliver. We also briefed him on the need to have a certified trail builder assist with the trail layout. Construction of sustainable and safe trails is not a job that anyone can do. The State needs to get this right the first time. He promised to engage other departments and remove roadblocks as well as push to ensure a trail builder is part of the construction team.

The DNR has been evaluating for acquisition 3,000 acres near Kitzmiller, MD. We have been discussing this with DNR for several years. We asked him to purchase the property and ensure it is operated as an OHV park. This needs the support of Garrett County leaders and we have been discussing that with them as well.  This could be the southern anchor to a joint public private riding area similar to Hatfield-McCoy. The Savage River trail would be the northern anchor. In that regard, we asked Secretary Belton to engage with the Department for Economic and Business Development to request a Joint DNR/DBED working group to look at OHV recreational tourism state-wide.

As I mentioned, it was a very positive meeting and the Secretary thought what we asked for was reasonable and he saw no show-stoppers.

The next year looks to be quite exciting!