Here at RTC I am always looking for stories about rail-trails helping revive the commercial center of small communities. But every now and then I come across an example so beautiful it immediately impresses upon me the fact that, in some parts of America, trails are so much more than the gravel and tar they are made of.
"I didn't want Oak Hill to die," says Vicki Setterl, a resident of Oak Hill, a small city in southern West Virginia. "It seemed for a while that everything was moving to Fayetteville or Beckley. I love Oak Hill and I felt like we needed to capitalize on our assets, which are a beautiful trail and the amphitheater."
Determined to keep her community together and inject life back into its struggling businesses, Vicki saw the White Oak Rail Trail that runs through the city as the perfect hub for a new beginning. So last year, Vicki and a few friends organized the first annual White Oak Rail Trail Expo, a business and tourism event where local entrepreneurs could display goods and promote themselves.
The community responded. On the morning of the expo, hundreds of tents lined the rail-trail, and the city of Oak Hill was bustling once more.
Turns out, the expo did more than just provide a spark for the local economy. "It was like a reunion," Vicki told the Fayette Tribune this week. "People saw people they hadn't seen in years and stopped and talked and hugged along the trail. I cried when I saw how many people came out."
This year's White Oak Rail Trail Expo well be held tomorrow, June 1, which is also National Trails Day. All vendor spaces have been booked. There will be live entertainment on the Depot Dock all day, and Virginia Street will be closed from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. as vendors unload, with the help of volunteers.
For more information, call Vicki Setterl at 304-573-1165.
(Oak Hill - we would love to help promote your trail and your town, too. Sign in to TrailLink.com - it's free and easy - and upload your photos of lots of people enjoying themselves on the White Oak Rail Trail.)