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Biking-focused trail plan draws a bit of discussion in meeting

Approximately 1,000 acres of city-owned property, including the city’s parks, are part of a biking-focused comprehensive trail plan.

The city invested $23,825 in the effort, joining the International Mountain Biking Association and WVU in assessing land owned by the city and university for the creation of a connected trail network.

 The plan generated quite a bit of discussion during the most recent meeting of  the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners.

 “I’ve been mountain biking hard trails for 30 years. I’ve built many mountain bike trails. I’m not against mountain biking, but the approach is far too focused, at the expense of everything else. I think we should say that as a board,” Commissioner Rick Landenberger said. “That’s all I wanted out of this thing, that they recognize these parks are not just a bunch of future mountain bike tracks.” 

There was also some pushback on what is perceived as a lack of BOPARC involvement for a plan involving a lot of BOPARC property.

 BOPARC President Patrick Hathaway pointed out that Executive Director Melissa Wiles wasn’t  consulted beyond an initial meeting and had no real input on the proposals.

“We’re a very important part here, and it was done and presented to us, not with us,” Commissioner Danielle Trumble agreed. 

Commissioner and City Councilor Jenny Selin took a different perspective, explaining that the group involved, which included Morgantown Staff Engineer Drew Gatlin, assessed the available properties and presented a proposal  for BOPARC to respond to. 

Selin also noted the plan is just that, a plan. It does not represent any funded projects.

“I think that’s part of the discussion, what do you want to protect? Because they’re not going to tell us what areas have the highest wildlife value and what areas have the highest quiet hiking value. We’re going to have to help choose those,” Selin said.

 In the end, the body asked Wiles to provide feedback that included support for greater connectivity and a request for greater recognition of other greenspace users and activities.

The Dominion Post requested a copy of the plan from the city, but was told it is not ready for public release.

Morgantown Communications Manager Andrew Stacy said the intent is to release the plan for public comment in mid-December.

In other BOPARC news, changes may be coming to Mountaineer Heritage Park, a riverfront pocket park located off the Caperton Trail in the area of the Morgantown Lock and Dam.

 Wiles presented some preliminary ideas put together by stakeholders including the Morgantown Riverfront Revitalization Task Force.

They included new public art installations as well as multiple bike-related activity areas. 

The latter drew mixed reactions among the board.

Landenberger noted the park’s green space offers a nice contrast to otherwise largely developed riverfront.

Hathaway agreed.

 “I will say that I would like to make sure that there’s enough seating and places for people to kind of relax. Not necessarily even seating, just green space for people to hang out,” Hathaway said.

 Wiles explained that some work has begun  removing some of the existing flower beds and old art installations, but the project is not funded and is conceptual at this point.

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