Community, Latest News, Preston County

Improvements coming to Preston County trails

By Aldona Bird

Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) and Friends of the Cheat are working to improve trails in Preston County.

 The PCPaRC Rail-Trail Committee has closed contractor bidding for this summer’s upcoming project: construction of a two-mile trail from Sisler Street in Kingwood near the Craig Civic Center to Snider’s Crossing.

 “It’s going to be a trail very similar to the Deckers Creek Trail,” Carl Ervin, president of the PCPaRC Rail-Trail Committee, said, adding that this new scenic section of rail trail, with views down the Cheat River, will have a crushed limestone surface.

 Division of Highways grants fund this project, and an in-county contractor will complete it.

 Grant requirements stipulate that motorized vehicles and horses  be prohibited on the trail.

 “It’s gonna be very helpful for the high school, for their cross-country team,” Ervin said. “They’ve been commuting out to Reedsville.” 

 Over the last few years PCPaRC cleaned up dilapidated buildings on its five- acre property along Sisler Street, which formerly housed the Northern Railroad Shops. The committee disassembled, “mothballed” and hopes to reconstruct the old water tower, planning a trailhead park at that location.

 New trail in the works 

new paving for kingwood rail trail

 Friends of the Cheat (FOC) have plans for another trailhead and further rail-trail construction, according to Associate Director Owen Mulkeen.

 The new eight-mile section of trail will run along the Cheat River from just north of Greer’s Cheat River Limestone quarry in Manheim to Caddell Bridge.

 “We’ve been awarded about $3.1 million for the construction of the trail,” Maulkeen said. The funds come partially from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program grants administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways and from the Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Grant.

 FOC obtained this land and section of trail from CSX Transportation. Railroad ties on the track had been treated with pollutants, including arsenic and petroleum toxins, and contaminated surrounding soil. FOC opted into the Department of Environmental Protection voluntary remediation project.

 “We have to do more sampling to show that the contaminants are decreasing,” Maulkeen said. To protect trail users, DEP guidelines stipulate grading before adding a filter fabric and layering limestone, other stone and topping with fine limestone.

 This process will “create a barrier between the contaminants and people’s respiratory system and skin contact,” Maulkeen said. The level of contaminants will determine the depth of the cap.

 “We are hoping for a six- inch cap, so we can use our funds to construct all eight miles of this project,” Maulkeen said. He said it is hoped that construction can start by summer 2021. FOC is partnering with Camp Dawson, which will construct almost a mile of trail through its property.

 FOC has applied for funds to create a destination trailhead, with amenities, green space and a boat landing.

 Last year, Friends of the Cheat received $50,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development agency, for a technical assistance project to create the first comprehensive trail plan, which will span the county, showing gaps, trail spurs, amenities and recreational hubs.

 “Usership of trails is at an all-time high,” Maulkeen said.

Ella Belling, with the Mon River Trials Conservancy, said over 30 events are held annually along trails in Monongalia and Preston counties. They have economic impact. They attract people to move to trail-side neighborhoods and towns, and trail users support local businesses.

 “They have benefits on so many levels. It’s a place to recreate and enjoy our natural world and our community,” Belling said.