CHARLES TOWN — This time next year streams of long-distance cyclists could begin regularly whizzing through Jefferson County.
That’s when a Jefferson County link into a roughly 1,000-mile public bike route extending from the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to Lake Ontario in Upstate New York could be established.
The bike route will be designated Route 11 (but not related to the Route 11 roadway in Berkeley County) part of the still-developing U.S. Bike Route System, a network of more than three-dozen cycling trails planned across the country.
Using existing paved roads and unpaved park trails, the national bike trail system is designed to offer safe, scenic and well-paced cycling options passing through cities, small towns and countrysides, said Matt Mullenax, executive director of the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization in Hagerstown, Md.
“It just designates roads where cyclists can bike on,” Mullenax said.
More than 14,000 miles of marked trails run through 27 states and the District of Columbia. Route 50, one of 10 mapped trails, extends from Washington, D.C., to west of Indianapolis, Ind. Another planned bike trail will run through the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, part of a path extending about 1,400-miles from Rochester, N.Y., to Miami, Fla.
HEPMPO is assisting with developing the Jefferson County link of the Route 11 trail, a project that could draw more cycling tourists to the county just as the Appalachian Trail draws hikers, Mullenax said. Hotels, restaurants and tourist sites could benefit from extra cycling visitors stopping for the day or evening while passing through the county, he said.
“It’s intended [to be an attraction for], though not limited to, those cyclists that are at the highest level of expertise, he said of the planned bike trail through the county. “We’re not advising a 10-year-old on a Huffy to be out on to U.S. 340.”
The Route 11 trail is expected to direct cyclists into Jefferson County from Virginia at Wickliffe Road east of Rippon, Mullenax said. The trail will connect with Maryland at the C&O Canal, either at Shepherdstown or at Harpers Ferry.
Signage for the Maryland leg of the trail is already posted, leading northbound cyclists from the C&O Canal up to Hagerstown on their way to Pennsylvania and New York.
Between Virginia and Maryland, three possible routes through the county are under consideration.
One proposed path from Virginia would take cyclists to U.S. 340 at Rippon then through Charles Town and Ranson along Augustine Avenue and then on to Flowing Springs Road to Shepherdstown. A second option from Virginia would follow U.S. 340 to Charles Town and then U.S. 340 to Harpers Ferry.
A more scenic third option would roughly parallel the Shenandoah River following Kabletown Road to Meyerstown to Millville to Harpers Ferry.
The Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, Mont., is helping to establish and promote all of the planned U.S. Bike Route System under the direction of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, a highway standards-setting body in Washington.
The goal is to make the U.S. Bicycle Route System the largest public bike route network in the world over the next 20 years, according to Laura Crawford, a coordinator for the system with the Adventure Cycling Association. When completed, the trail network could have 50,000 miles of cycling paths mapped out nationwide, she reported.