Big news for trails in West Virginia!
The West Virginia Department of Transportation announced that it has awarded two grants totaling more than $340,000 through the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for trail projects in Marion and Wood counties.
This is huge and here’s why: The TAP awards—which include a $120,000 grant for the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission announced just yesterday, and a $232,000 grant for the Wood County Commission announced earlier this Fall—will specifically help acquire three segments of disused CSX corridor totaling 3.35 miles along a developing 150-mile stretch of rail-trail from Parkersburg to the state’s border with Pennsylvania.
A key component of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s (IHTC’s) efforts to create a 1,500-mile trail network in 51 counties across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York—these corridor segments and several existing trails comprise a potential 238-mile continuous rail-trail from Parkersburg, West Virginia, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (the “P2P” Corridor).
Closing the Gaps in the Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Corridor
About 85 percent complete already, the West Virginia segment of the Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Corridor has only 22 miles of gaps remaining. The two TAP grants—which are also supported by important local matching funds totaling $85,800—will help complete 1.5 miles of trail along the Monongahela River in Marion County and 1.85 miles of trail between Parkersburg and the existing North Bend Rail Trail in Wood County.
The full North Bend Rail Trail currently extends for about 72 miles from near Wolf Summit to a few miles away from Parkersburg—through Doddridge, Harrison, Ritchie and Wood counties—featuring 10 passable tunnels, 36 bridges and many state, local and county parks. The trail is also part of the 5,500-mile, coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.
Combined with a 2017 TAP grant of $115,200 to help purchase 4.5 miles of disused CSX corridor between the North Bend Rail-Trail and Adamston for trail conversion (with local matching funds of $28,800), we’re looking at nearly 8 miles of gaps being closed—more than one-third of the remaining gaps in the full 150-mile West Virginia section of the P2P Corridor!
Read more about the developing P2P Corridor, a route connecting northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania by trail that would be a game-changer for dozens of small, rural Appalachian towns.
What This Means for West Virginia and the Industrial Heartland
As part of our work with the IHTC, RTC worked closely with CSX and the three local jurisdictions this past year to complete several corridor appraisals and successfully secure TAP funding for acquisition. This spring, we released a 104-page corridor study, “Connecting Parkersburg to Pittsburgh by Rail-Trail,” that found that the few short gaps remaining in the 150-mile corridor could be realized within the next decade.
But the P2P project is about more than just building a rail-trail.
It’s about leveraging the trail to build a new, sustainable economy—one that thrives on recreation and tourism—in a region buffeted by cataclysmic changes in the manufacturing and energy industries over the past several decades. The re-envisioning of the P2P corridor from industrial relic to premier biking destination will have a transformative impact—opening the door to tens of millions of dollars per year in tourism spending and other economic development benefits.
The 2018 feasibility study estimates that completion of the gaps in Wood, Harrison and Marion counties would attract some of the 800,000 hikers and bicyclists who visit Pennsylvania’s legendary Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) each year, along with a share of the more than $40 million they spend annually in communities along the trail.
The IHTC will spur a new wave of regional tourism, encouraging exploration of the small towns, major cities, historical sites, rivers and mountains that characterize America’s first frontier and once-thriving industrial heyday.
RTC will continue to stay active in the transformation of the epic trail corridor in West Virginia—so check back for updates!
04/04/16 | Laura Stark