by GEOFF FOX
Ralph Donnelly, a local historian, surveyor, and engineer who passed away in 2003, was memorialized on Friday, March 23, when the Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS) dedicated a Land Surveyor’s Calibration Baseline marker at the corner of the rail trail to his memory.
The Society of Surveyors placed the EDMI CBL — Electronic Distance Measuring Instrument Calibration Base Line – marker at the gate of the Rail Trail below Church Street.
Land surveyors use the baseline to make sure their instruments are functioning properly and correctly.
There have been baseline markers in Washington County since 1977 at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.
Some of the four still exist, others have been destroyed or rendered unusable due to the airport’s expansion projects and security requirements.
The corridor of the rail trail in Hancock provided the most suitable place for straightness with flat terrain, length, visibility, accessibility, and seemed to qualify as the least likely to be disturbed.
The first station, or the zero meter, is located close to the parking lot at Church Street. The last station is located more than 3,346 feet away close to the Park-N-Ride parking lot. Two stations are in between at the 492-foot mark and 1,430-foot mark
The dedication ceremony was held in the basement of the Hancock Presbyterian Church because organizers did not want those in attendance to be standing in the snow.
Officials from the town, county, state, and surveyors attended the dedication. Close to 50 people were in attendance. Also in attendance were Donnelly’s family members.
A demonstration allowed those in attendance a chance to use surveyor equipment.
Proclamations regarding National Surveyors Week were read aloud from the Washington County Commissioners and Governor Larry Hogan. A proclamation was also received from President Donald Trump.
Hancock Mayor Ralph Salvagno gave a brief history of the town. Salvagno also talked about Donnelly.
In the 1950s, Donnelly worked against the paving over of the C&O Canal, working with Supreme Court Justice Douglas to successfully protest the misuse of the canal.
Bob Banzhoff, who was master of ceremony for the event, showed a book containing the report for the possible paving of the canal.
“He was well known, well respected, and his memory lives on in all the works that he’s done for this community,” Salvagno said.
Following Salvagno, R. Hank Donnelly, Ralph Donnelly’s grandson, also shared a personal view of his late grandfather.
- Hank Donnelly said he remembered going on hikes with his grandfather.
“No matter where, when, summer vacation, Eastern Shore, Thanksgiving weekend, or just a random Saturday, we were out hiking,” he said.
Donnelly said on these hikes, he and his grandfather would hike along the trails and eventually stop and declare they were there.
Once they discovered what they were looking for, the elder Donnelly would describe what it was they were looking at and take a couple pictures.
- Hank Donnelly said his grandfather would be thrilled to have his name attached to the benchmark.
“He would be looking over your shoulders to make sure you did it right, though,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly, with an emotional crack in his voice, thanked the Surveyor’s Society for the “wonderful” recognition of his grandfather.
A GPS monument will be set in the parking lot area near the benches below Main Street.