Eastern Adams Rail Trail at East Berlin

by Walt Geiger

As we head into 2023, a group of residents in eastern Adams County are working to create new recreational opportunities in the area.

East Berlin Parks and Recreation, along with the nonprofit Healthy Eastern Adams Rails & Trails (HEART), are working to fund a comprehensive master plan for a 30-acre tract of woods in East Berlin, known locally as Kuhn’s Woods. This parcel, owned by East Berlin, will hopefully soon serve as a new location for passive outdoor recreation and the area’s first rail-trail.

Master planning for Kuhn’s Woods requires a professional consultant with planning expertise. Community volunteers are working to secure financial assistance through county and state grants, donations and other commitments for those professional services. The East Berlin Borough Council has also provided funding and was recently successful in obtaining a grant through Adams County Parks, Recreation and Green Space Grant Program. Volunteers will apply to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for additional grant funding. Recently the Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. (HABPI) board of directors committed a grant. All of this work is building on previous efforts to utilize Kuhn’s Woods as a new recreational opportunity.

Ten years ago, in response to the 2012 Eastern Adams County Comprehensive Plan, a citizens group formed to build a trail starting in East Berlin and ending towards Abbottstown on the abandoned East Berlin Railroad railbed. The railroad was open for business in May 1877 and provided service for passengers and products between terminus points of East Berlin and Berlin Junction where it connected to the existing Western Maryland rail line southwest of Abbottstown. The East Berlin citizens’ initiative, together with Hamilton Township, received a grant for a 2015 feasibility study that proposed a 1.3-mile rail-trail between Kuhn’s Woods and Pine Run Road.

In 2018, a citizens group of original and new members reactivated the trail initiative by incorporating and forming HEART. Several HEART board of directors, as members of the planning commission, kept the trails initiative active by working with East Berlin volunteers to develop a plan for Kuhns Woods. HEART and East Berlin formally agreed in 2022, with the endorsement of the borough council, to co-develop a plan of action to develop the park and trail. Throughout the year the committee communicated with county and state leaders to learn how to secure grant funding and learn best practices for trail development.

HEART is focused on a first phase, 0.3-mile trail through East Berlin’s Kuhn’s Woods with the strategy of achieving a doable project with one landowner and demonstrating an understanding of the steps in planning, grant funding and construction necessary for future extension of the trail southward. Once the initial phase is completed, it will serve as a successful example for nearby landowners and community partners to be confident about. Construction will hopefully start in spring 2024 with the understanding that the development steps along the way are achieved according to a strategic plan developed by East Berlin and HEART.

HABPI has been instrumental in assisting, informing and supporting HEART throughout the past four years and we appreciate their guidance in building a new recreational area in eastern Adams County.

Walt Geiger is the president of Healthy Eastern Adams Rails & Trails. He lives with his wife, Anne, in East Berlin in the historic Baker-Jacobs House. Walt is a somewhat-retired architect-engineer with avid interests in outdoor hiking, trail-biking, summiting, fishing and wildlife observing.