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Build and connect trails.

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Huntington’s Paul Ambrose Pathway to Health will eventually run all the way through Huntington, in memory of a young doctor who died in the 9-11 attack. (Photo courtesy Rahall Institute of Transportation)

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The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department connected hiking / biking trails through six counties and put up mileage signs, to invite long-distance hikes and rides. (Photo courtesy MOVHD)

All over West Virginia, communities are building trails and safe walking/hiking/biking routes. Here are some examples:

The city of Huntington built the 23-mile Paul Ambrose Trail to Health (PATH) to honor Dr. Paul Ambrose, who died in the Twin Towers. 

  • The Monongahela River Trail Conservancy, a volunteer organization, has opened about 50 miles of rail trail to non-motorized use. It will eventually connect with Pittsburgh’s trails, which connect with the Washington, D.C. trail system. http://www.montrails.org
  • The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has connected hundreds of miles of trails in their six counties and put up signs that orient hikers and bikers.

Many shorter trails encourage local people to exercise, and also make the town attractive to new businesses and residents.

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The town of Parsons built a biking/hiking trail through town and, here, through the town park, connecting with a 19-mile US Forest Service trail. (Photo, Kate Long).

  • In Fayette County, the city of Oak Hill created the White Oak rail trail through the middle of town. They hold fairs along it and plan to build a farmers market pavilion next to it. “I see more and more people of all ages using it,” said Linda Stein, local social worker. “It really has stimulated walking.”
  • In Tucker County, Parsons and the county commission built a trail through town, over two bridges, into the federal nursery bottom. There it hooks with the 19-mile Fernow Experimental Forest trail.

 

Want to build or expand recreational trails in your area?

 

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West Virginia has more miles of rail trail per capita than any other state.

  • Create walking/running and/or biking groups to plan and create trails: Bring together a group of people with a direct interest in expanding the trail system. See the Organize a community running/walking group and Organize a biking group pages.
  • Check out this fabulous map of all trails in West Virginia, on land and water, for hiking, biking and paddling.http://mapwv.gov/trails/   The map is evolving. More routes and trails are continuously being added. So if your favorite trail is not listed – or if you create a new trail – let them know!
  • Inventory hiking/biking trails already in your area. Map them. These two organizations make it easy: American Trails and Traillink.
  •  Build a mountain biking trail: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Mountain-Bike-Course and http://www.instructables.com/id/Bulid-a-Mountain-Bike-Trail/
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      The Mingo County Diabetes Association and West Virginia on the Move posted large maps of Williamson’s running / walking routes in various parts of Williamson.

  • Commuter biking map. Here’s a link to Huntington’s map of trails and roads safe for biking: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/briefs/x786302061/Commuter-bicycling-maps-available
    • Add possible trails to your map with dotted lines.
  • Post maps of running trails in your town. The maps of the trails around Williamson to the left are posted on sizeable signs at strategic locations in the Mingo County town.
  • Put the map in the newspaper and online, so more people find the trails.
  • Get your local governing body committed to trails. Charleston City Council has passed a resolution supporting creation of 100 miles of trail and created a land trust group: http://www.cityofcharleston.org/landtrust.
  • Visit other communities to see their trails: See examples above. Also see http://www.traillink.com for descriptions of trails statewide.
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    Volunteers helping build trail in Wood County combine physical exercise and public service. Photo courtesy The OPAM

     

  • Learn how to build a trail. Trailbuilding involves much more than going out in the woods and cutting a path. It involves land acquisition, engineering, shared use agreements, risk management, mapping, community relations, and volunteer recruitment/management. Get educated. Here are resources:
  • Excellent trailbuilding toolkit/advice from national rail trail group: www.railstotrails.org/ourwork/trailbuilding/index.html.
  • More railtrail advicehttp://www.railstotrails.org/build-trails/
  • The International Mountain Biking Association’s Trail Solutions program directly helps communities plan, design, construct and manage a trail system while minimizing environmental impact and community squabbles. Your community can apply to have a IMBA trail crew come to your community free of charge to help you do all of the above. Subaru pays the IMBA to do this.
  • Two teams of professional trail experts travel to about 60 communities a year to lead work sessions, meet with land managers and work with IMBA-affiliated clubs and communities to improve mountain biking opportunities. To be eligible, you must have a local mountain biking association, affiliated with the IMBA: www.imba.com/chapter-club-regional-development.

The National Park Service’s Rivers & Trails Program (RTCA) supplies free help for communities that want to develop trails, river access, and open space protection. If you have an idea for a project, contact the staff person for free guidance. 304-293-7528. <www.nps.gov/rtca>.

Add an educational component. Put markers along the trail that educate people about plants and wildlife they’re seeing or about local history. The marked Laurel Fork Trail at Holly River State Park won a national award, for instance. http://www.americantrails.org/awards/CRT10awards/Laurel-Trail-Holly-State-Park-WV.html

Explore/expand/publicize rail trails in your area: There are now more than 375 miles of rail trail in West Virginia. Here’s information on every WV rail trail: directions, description, comments. A map and info is available at http://www.wvcommerce.org/travel/thingstodo/outdoorrecreation/railtrails.aspx

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Biking trails are also horseback riding trails. Photo: Skip Heater

 

Get familiar with studies that show how trails stimulate economic development. They can help convince local officials to support trail-building.

Connect your community and another with a bike/hike trail.

This is already happening in various places in West Virginia: Parsons and Elkins are connected by a bikeable rail trail. Trails throughout the six counties of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department are connected, so people can pedal from county to county. Richwood is connecting the town with surrounding natural hiking areas such as the Cranberry Back Country.

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Buckhannon residents enjoy the Parsons-Elkins rail trail with canine companion, Ledger. (Photo, Kate Long)

In 2013, Lewisburg and Ronceverte got $48K from the state for a connecting trail through the federal Recreational Trails Program (see $$$ section below).

Need $$$ to pay for trails?

Each year, through a federal program, the state helps various communities with the expense of building trails through the West Virginia Recreational Trails Program.

 

Related pages can be found in the “trails,” “Running and walking,” and “bicycling” sections of the Try This index.

 

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