Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad project moves forward after years of effort

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Special to Dorchester Banner/Kelley L. Allen
State Transportation officials and Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad volunteers work on a lease agreement for a project between Hurlock and Preston. Seated, ESSR Vice President David Owens, left, and ESSR President Ellery Adams. Standing, back, Dorchester County Councilman Rick Price, left; Brad Smith; Deputy Secretary of Transportation Dennis Schrader; Phil Dacey; Karin Kirksey; Harry Romano and Matthew Garbark.

HURLOCK — Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad volunteers and state officials started lease negotiations at a meeting last month in Hurlock, for an unused, state-owned stretch of railroad track between Hurlock and Preston.

Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad (ESSR) volunteers have worked for more than nine years to get rights to the 6.4-mile span of unused railroad track. The state’s department of transportation owns the 66-foot right-of-way that includes the track.

The group wants to develop a scenic passenger train ride, which could provide a boom for tourism in the area. If realized, the scenic railroad would become the first of its kind in the region.

“People love trains,” said David Owens, vice president of the ESSR volunteer group. Mr. Owens, along with ESSR Board President Ellery Adams; group Secretary Susan Bautz and Dorchester County Councilman Rick Price, met with state officials in June and discussed a possible lease.

Dennis Schrader, newly appointed deputy secretary for the Maryland Department of Transportation, attended the June meeting and said he plans to facilitate success for the proposed project.

“You have lots of opportunities out there,” Mr. Schrader said. “We want to be helpful.”

Mr. Schrader also indicted the need to work as honest brokers, finding answers quickly while ensuring the state is protected.

“Mr. Schrader has been very helpful,” Mr. Adams said. “We also can’t thank enough former state Sen. Richard Colburn, and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, director of intergovernmental affairs for Maryland.”

Both have been instrumental in moving the project forward, Mr. Adams added.
The Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad is a nonprofit organization working to establish a 6.4-mile Hurlock to Preston tourist and educational railroad. Founded in 2005, the group is governed by a board of trustees. ESSR conducted a project feasibility study in 2010.

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