Mountaineer bike trail network bill passes House; Senate version gets committee OK, goes to floor

CHARLESTON — One of two bills in circulation to create a north-central mountain bike trail network won unanimous approval of the House of Delegates on Tuesday. The other one got a thumbs-up in Senate Judiciary and will go before the full Senate.

HB 2420 passed 96-0 and goes to the Senate. It creates a Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority.

The reader board shows the vote for HB 2420.

Originally drafted to promote tourism in five north-central counties — Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison and Taylor — it was amended in Government Organization last week to take in five Potomac Highlands counties: Barbour, Grant, Mineral, Randolph and Tucker.

The new counties were added, Government Organization chair Gary Howell, R-Mineral said, to create an interconnected, contiguous system extending to the Chesapeake & Ohio Tow Path.

Minority Leader Tim Miley (left) talks to Delegate Ralph Rodighiero on the House floor.

HB 2420 establishes a 21-member board to oversee network operations. It envisions significant portions of the network crossing private land. The board would have the power to buy or lease land or obtain easements for trail construction.

Trail users would pay a permit fee for access. They would be subject to various rules: Display a valid user permit at all times; wear helmets; don’t bring alcohol; don’t light fires outside designated campsites; don’t operate motor vehicles on the trail.

HB 2420 passed without debate and only one short question by a delegate who wanted to confirm that the bike trails would allow no ATVs or other motorized traffic.

The bill’s Senate cousin, SB 317, would allow three or more adjacent counties to create a network authority to develop and operate a trail system. Separate authorities could merge into a single, larger authority.

Some of the prohibitions are different. Helmet use is at the discretion of the trail authority.

The no-alcohol provision is gone. Committee counsel said this is because some trail networks in other states permit it. For instance, there’s a brewery tour ride in Asheville, N.C. So that is also left to the discretion of each authority.

Both bills are in the hands of the Senate. Differences between them will have to be ironed out in consultation with the House to produce a bill both chambers can support.

Other House action

The House passed HB 2004 95-1 and sent it to the Senate. It’s intended to offer workforce preparedness programs in schools. The 19-page bill’s summary states its purpose: “To provide better communication to students and parents on career and technical programs of study that begin in high school and lead to industry- recognized credentials, certificates of applied science and associate degrees in high-demand, high wage occupations in the state.”

HB 2481, to permit Sunday liquor store sales after 1 p.m., was on first reading. Delegate Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia, stood to seek approval to sign on as a sponsor. He told members he is lead sponsor on a similar bill, introduced a week before this one, that was never taken up. Members agreed and his name is now on the bill.

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