Refuge receives funding for trail repairs

Published 9:52 pm Saturday, June 9, 2018

A winding path off White Marsh Road leads to the trailhead for Washington Ditch. The wooded trail is shaded by trees with a 360-degree view of gorgeous, green scenery that visitors seek at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s also one of the two access points to Lake Drummond and the most recommended for hikers and cyclists, partly because it’s the quickest to the lake at just 4.5 miles, according to Refuge Manager Chris Lowie. But the path itself has needed an overhaul for years to deal with encroaching grass and the numerous potholes from which hikers and cyclists alike suffer.

The construction project is just one in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s deferred maintenance backlog addressed by the U.S. Department of the Interior this week. The Interior Department announced $50 million in fiscal year 2018 funding for Fish and Wildlife maintenance and repair projects.

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In a Thursday press release, the department announced that $647,000 of that $50 million had been approved to repair the Washington Ditch Trail.

“Today’s announcement is another step toward eliminating the $1.4 billion in maintenance facing our nation’s refuges and hatcheries,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated in the release. “It’s another step toward prioritizing infrastructure, because it is an investment that bolsters local economies. And it is another step in prioritizing access for all Americans to our public lands.”

Lowie said in a Friday phone interview that the plan is to resurface the trail with stone material for a flatter and more durable surface that’s resistant to ruts and potholes, and that this will be the biggest improvement to the Washington Ditch since the boardwalk was added in 2008.

“It’s going to put to be a more solid, all-weather, year-round trail,” he said in a phone interview Friday.

Named after George Washington, who led the original survey of the ditch back in 1763 before it became a cart road flanked by a canal, Washington Ditch Trail ends at a Lake Drummond pier built for sightseeing and fishing.

“These projects have a tangible effect on a person’s experience when hunting, fishing or visiting a wildlife refuge,” Zinke stated.

The overhaul is expected to be finished by spring 2019 at the latest, according to Lowie. Visit and for the latest information on trail closings for maintenance repairs.