State gives $80K grant for 3 miles of proposed rail-trail

KINGWOOD — A grant will pay for another mile of the proposed West Virginia Northern rail-trail to be designed.
Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) received an $80,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) Recycling Assistance Grant Program. The grant was announced Dec. 10.
PCPaRC’s Emily Carson said past grants paid for the design of another three miles of the trail.
“And we have more funds set aside, but they’re kind of tied up with the DOH right now, that will pay for construction of the first three miles,” she said.
The design is expensive because engineers must test the soils, which are often contaminated on former rail lines, along with other work.
The Northern Railroad operated from 1886-1991 between Kingwood and Tunnelton. It hauled coal, goods and people. After it stopped operating as a working railroad, it had a brief life as a tourist train.
In 2000, Kern Valley Railroad bought the line to dismantle it, and the line was put into the state rail bank. That’s when work began to convert it to a rail-trail.
This year PCPaRC was able to finish taking down the last of the dilapidated old buildings on the site of the Northern Shops, on Sisler Street, in Kingwood. The plan is for the trail head to be located here.
At the opposite end of the line is the historic Tunnelton Depot, which is maintained by the Tunnelton Historical Society.
The work has been a cooperative effort between the parks organization, Friends of the Cheat, the Preston County Rail Trail Committee, Preston County Commission, the town councils of Kingwood and Tunnelton, local businesses and residents, and others.
“The rail-trail projects are always like an inch worm,” Carlson said.
Ultimately, the goal is to connect the Northern trail with the Cheat trail being done by Friends of Cheat, and Deckers Creek and other trails.
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