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August 20, 2021

Trone talks tourism with local business leaders during visit to Frostburg

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Greg Larry

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Several local officials updated U.S. Rep. David Trone on Thursday on the challenges of reinvigorating local tourism as the coronavirus pandemic lingers.

Trone, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 6th congressional district, capped off a daylong visit to Allegany County with a meeting at the Frostburg Depot attended by area representatives and business leaders.

“It’s an uneven recovery,” said Trone. “Some areas it has been pretty decent but other places it’s been more challenging and we must continue to provide support for all our communities.”

Frostburg Mayor Bob Flanigan said members of the communities have pulled together during this difficult time period. “The way people have come together here has been fantastic,” he said.

Officials are facing uncertain times with the current influx of COVID-19 cases and concerns over variants impacting the region.

Wes Heinz, interim CEO of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, said the railroad has been busy managing the restoration of the tracks, ties and crossings along the 16 miles of track between Cumberland and Frostburg. He said the new Ice Cream Train rides have been a big success for the railroad as customers are returning to the attraction.

Adam Forshee, owner of Tracks and Yaks, said his business has been doing well. Forshee said his 10-mile pedal bike ride that starts at the Frostburg Depot has been bringing in local people and tourists from across the Mid-Atlantic region. Customers can rent two- or four-seat pedal bikes with an aluminum frame to ride along the tracks to LaVale where Tracks and Yaks employees return the riders to the depot via trolly.

Ashli Workman, Allegany County’s director of tourism, said she remains optimistic but restaurants, hotels and motels are still not back to pre-COVID numbers.

Fred Powell, owner of Main Street Books in Frostburg, said “We are very fortunate because we have a base of very loyal customers, which has helped us quite a bit through this.”

However, Powell said the entertainment-based business in Allegany County continues to struggle. Powell said he works with the Palace Theatre and bringing back movies and live performances has been uncertain. “So we are really gun-shy about doing anything at this point because it doesn’t seem like anybody wants to return to (public venues),” he said.

Heinz said the WMSR management is working to help its employees stay in the community by offering tuition reimbursement for employees. “We want to be one of the premier places for people to want to work,” he said. “We demand a lot from our people but we want to give back to our community tenfold. We are improving our benefits package with a tuition reimbursement program. We want people to be able to stay in the community.”