One of the first projects under this initiative was the installation of Garrett County’s first dog park in 2015. Nichols noted that the dog park was well received, and many users requested additional walking trails around the park.
In response to this feedback, the Lions Club worked with the Garrett County commissioners to develop a trail system on additional parcels of land owned by the county adjacent to the park.
“Also during the period, several club members happened to be discussing Meshach Browning’s book, ‘Forty-Four Years of the Life of a Hunter,’ an autobiographical account of pioneer life in Garrett County in the early 1800s. The site of one of Browning’s homesteads was very close to the park and club members discussed the possibility of a monument at the park to commemorate his life.”
This led to the decision to combine the ideas of a historical interpretive exhibit with the outdoor theme of a trail system. The members pursued a grant from the Mountain Maryland Heritage Area.
“Although the grant request was rejected for arbitrary administrative reasons, the club felt that the value to the community was sufficient to self-fund the project,” Nichols said.
He explained that members of the club collaborated with various organizations such as Garrett Trails for assistance in trail clearing and the Garrett County Historical Society in development of content for the interpretive exhibit.
An informal group of Meshach Browning enthusiasts was also recruited on social media to work on the text and images of the signs.
Browning described the area that would become Deep Creek Lake in his book.
“My mind cannot imagine a more beautiful sight than could be obtained from the highest grounds of the Hoop-Pole Ridge, which commanded a view of the valley between that and the great Back-Bone. ... It was a grand sight to watch the tall grass, rolling in beautiful waves with every breeze which passed over its smooth surface, as well as the herds of deer skipping and playing with each other.”
A sign at the trailhead reads: “Meshach Browning (1781-1959) was one of the earliest settlers of Western Maryland and a prolific hunter, killing over 2,000 deer, 500 bear, as well as numerous panthers, wolves and rattlesnakes. His book, penned with a turkey quill by candlelight, recounts many of his hunting expeditions, while providing details about pioneer life in this area during the early 1800s. This trail system is dedicated to him.”
The trail system and historical exhibit had its “soft opening” Jan. 1. An official grand opening is being planned for May in conjunction with a possible Meshach Browning family reunion at the park.
At the trailhead, the exhibit consists of a series of signs, each with a quotation from Browning’s book, a central image relevant to the text, locations in the county for other outdoor experiences and links to county resources, such as the museum in Oakland where visitors can learn more.
More information on the content of each sign, as well as audio recordings of the text of each are provided on the club’s website.
The trailhead also has a large format map of the system and paper copies of the map for visitors to take along with them.
“The trails offer a mix of intensity levels from flat, wide trails to challenging single tracks and are suitable for a variety of uses including hiking, biking, dog walking and cross-country skiing (weather permitting),” Nichols said.
During the soft opening phase, trails are marked with temporary surveyor’s tape which will be replaced with permanent blazes as the trails are finalized.
The club also plans to install an information kiosk and perform landscaping at the trailhead area.
Long-term plans for the park include further trail development, recreational equipment, soccer fields and the acquisition and assembly of a salvaged pioneer-era log cabin.
“Partners are being sought for these and other projects and their long-term nature provides excellent business promotional opportunities,” Nichols said. “The club is always looking for donations of boats and other recreational gear as well as new members to support its core mission of providing service to the visually impaired through its Blind Skier and Camper Programs.”
For questions, comments or how to get involved, contact Chris Nichols at 301-616-7881 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The trail is open from dawn to dusk daily. Snow removal is not guaranteed.