The communities of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle are one giant step closer to connecting to the thriving trail activity of western Maryland and Pennsylvania, thanks to a Recreational Trails Program(RTP) grant.
On Monday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced $80,000 in RTP funds to support the development of the North Berkeley Rail Trail, utilizing a disused section of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line. Though still in the early stages of planning, when complete the trail will run between Berkeley Springs and the U.S. 522 Potomac River bridge, and connect to the C&O Canal towpath, the Western Maryland Rail Trail, and the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), an internationally renowned rail-trail that attracts many thousands of riders every year from throughout America and around the world.
This trails tourism traffic is worth an estimated $50 million a year to the communities along the GAP, and in recent years has breathed new life and commerce into towns and small cities suffering the decline of traditional primary industries. The North Berkley Rail Trail would allow the businesses and main streets of northeast West Virginia to connect to this booming market.
The grant to the North Berkley Rail Trail project was one of 22 West Virginian trail projects receiving support this week. Gov. Tomblin announced $1.2 million in RTP grants to trails throughout the state, including the Meadow River Rail Trail in Fayette and Greenbrier counties, the Mon River Rail Trail system in Monongalia and Preston counties, and the Potts Valley Rail Trail (above) in Monroe County.
Way to go, Mountaineers.