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Green Space Coalition outlines alternative travel


Morgantown is growing — fast. It has been an ongoing challenge to manage the influx of motor traffic on the narrow, pothole-riddled roads.

“Let’s face it,” said JoNell Stough, chair of the Mon Valley Green Space Coalition. “Morgantown’s topography does not frequently allow another lane to be added to existing roads. So instead, why not invest in a multi-use trail system that people can use as an alternative?”

Such a trail system, Strough went on, would allow people to travel to work or recreation by bike or on foot, which would cut down on headaches from heavy traffic and also allow residents opportunities to enjoy all of the green spaces that Morgantown has to offer.

The Mon Valley Green Space Coalition is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit that was created in the late 1990s by a small group of Morgantown residents.

“The MVGSC organized around opportunities for trails and the idea of neighborhood connectivity to parks, schools and commercial areas such as downtown Morgantown,” said Strough.

Several of the original members regularly hiked through the undeveloped parcels in the southern part of the city, and it became apparent that a multi-use trail system could be developed that would connect all of the southern neighborhoods to its city parks, schools, commercial areas and the local rail-trails. The group took to calling this hypothetical trail the “Southern Greenbelt.”

Strough said a similar opportunity exists for a “Northern Greenbelt” from the Falling Run Trail to the Caperton Trail.

In recent years, the MVGSC has directed its energy towards conserving the forested parcels that are essential for the development of these proposed greenbelts.

“The green space is disappearing rapidly at the same time that demand for access to outdoor recreation has grown exponentially — a demand that continues to increase. We would like to see the properties that are essential for the Southern and Northern Greenbelts to be preserved — either through outright purchase,or conservation easements and paying for rights-of-way,” Strough said.

Among other projects, the organization recently worked on the Marilla Connector Trail in conjunction with BOPARC and the City of Morgantown. This trail connects the South Hills neighborhood to the Deckers Creek Trail.

“This project is a demonstration of the type of trail we would like to see more of around Morgantown to get people to parks and the rail-trails. It increases connectivity and gives people an alternative to driving a car. At the same time, it provides a place to take a walk and unwind from daily stressors,” said Strough.

On the horizon, the MVGSC will be working with the Morgantown Land Reuse and Preservation Agency to investigate potential opportunities to improve connectivity through existing green spaces.

One such opportunity is the Hirschman Park property, a seven-acre parcel between White Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard in the southern part of Morgantown.

“It has the best example of undisturbed forest in the southern part of the city, equal in ecological diversity to the WVU Arboretum,” said Strough. “It contains many huge, old trees that are essentially old-growth forest, right in city limits. The Hirshman connector is just one of so many opportunities to improve the quality of life in Morgantown.”

Donations to support the MVGSC can be made by credit or debit card by going to the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/greenspacecoalition/. Scanning the available QR code that will direct mobile users to a donation website.

For those who do not use social media, checks can be sent to PO Box 498, Morgantown, WV, 26505.

Individuals can also go to kroger.com/i/community/community-rewards and link a Kroger discount card to TU017 Mon Valley Green Space Coalition. Kroger will then donate MVGSC each time the discount card is used.

Completion of the Southern and Northern Greenbelts would benefit Morgantown residents and businesses, but it is a challenging mission.

“We need financial backing and cooperative landowners who are willing to consider conservation easements and selling rights-of-way for public access across their properties. Landowners are often opposed to this idea initially, but when they learn how it works and how it benefits them, they are more open to the idea,” said Strough.