HANCOCK, Md. (AP) — The National Park Service is seeking comment on plans to extend the Western Maryland Rail Trail while avoiding adverse effects on bats that live in tunnels along the route.

Public meetings are scheduled Wednesday night in Hancock and Thursday night in Paw Paw, W.Va., the proposed endpoint of the extension.

The project would extend what is now a 22-mile, paved, hiking-and-biking path between Big Pool and Pearre.

The route would bypass the former Indigo train tunnel between Pearre and Little Orleans. The park service says it also may bypass the Stickpile and Kessler tunnels. All three tunnels are on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. Experts say human activity in the tunnels could further the spread of a fatal bat disease called white-nose syndrome.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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