Reflecting on the successes of 2016 – and looking forward to 2017!


Since 1994, Friends of Cheat has been working to fulfill its mission of restoring, preserving, and promoting the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed.  As a supporter of our organization, you may wonder exactly what that means.  The quick answer is that without your support – your financial contributions, your volunteering, your help spreading the word about our work – without you, our mission would mean very little.  Our successes, our needs, and the river we all love – depend on your help.  Conversely, this mission is a reflection of the many achievements Friends of Cheat can accomplish with your support.

Over the years, the backing and financial contributions of supporters like you has ultimately allowed our organization to expand its programming and make impactful on-the-ground improvements in the watershed.  Today, because of you, we are engaged in all the core actions of our mission statement.

In just the last year, your financial contributions have helped Friends of the Cheat:



2016-03-26 16.32.26

IMG_3662 copy

Janet Lenox Meet the Cheat 1





Other reasons 2016 rocked – FOC/DEPP partnership has been renewed for another 3 years!  We hired a new technician, Brian Hurley – as Jeremy Sidebottom left to further his education and travel the world.  FOC was named Top Water Conservation Group in the Southeast by Blue Ridge Outdoors.  

And best of all – The Cheat River was one of 2016 EPA 319 Success Stories – declaring the Cheat River “reborn!”  

Request for Proposals for LRS


The RFP below has been closed and no contract awarded due to a significant change in the Scope of Work.


Cheat River Rail-Trail Corridor – BAJ 3.0 to BAJ 11.1

Cheat River CSX corridor

Cheat River CSX corridor








RFP_CheatRTLRS_6.25  (opens RFP as PDF in separate window)

Only written (e-mail acceptable) queries concerning this RFP shall be accepted or answered. All queries shall be sent to:

Amanda Pitzer

Executive Director,

Friends of the Cheat

119 S. Price Street, Suite 206

Kingwood, WV 26537

(304) 329-3621

New Trail Property Purchased in Preston County


Finally!  A big win for FOC’s Preston Rail-Trail Committee!

For Immediate Release – April 7, 2015

Today, project partners Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) and Friends of the Cheat (FOC) announced that ten miles of the former West Virginia Northern railroad corridor between Kingwood and Tunnelton has been purchased for conversion into a rail-trail.

Funding for the property acquisition was provided by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways; the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust; and, the West Virginia Division of Tourism.  The property and associated trail rights were purchased from Utah-based Kern Valley Railroad which acquired the railroad in 2000 following the closure of the stakeholder-operated Kingwood Northern tourist train.

Since 2002, a group of volunteers known as the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) has worked persistently and patiently on developing rail-trails on three corridors in Preston County, and this purchase marks the group’s first rail-trail acquisition.  In 2011, FOC took action to bring attention and resources to other aspects of the project.  These efforts resulted in a wave of activity:  the century old water tower was listed as a historic Endangered Property by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia; funding and technical support from the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center supported the development of conceptual revitalization plans for the former railcar maintenance facility near the water tower; and Stan Hostler donated 2.5 acres of property adjacent to the water tower and trail.  The emergence of the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission as a partner represents the project’s final keystone because their willingness to own and manage the trail allows the project to come to fruition.

“The West Virginia Northern Rail-Trail is exactly the type of endeavor the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission was formed to support.  The rail-trail will link two communities and provide a new outdoor space for free, low-impact exercise.” explains PCPaRC President Lynn Housner.  PCPaRC Commissioner Paul Martin believes the new rail-trail will also “enhance existing recreation opportunities offered at the Craig Civic Center and local schools in both Kingwood and Tunnelton.”

PCPaRC and FOC are ready to hit the trail running, and they have the funds to do so.  The Recreational Trails program has granted the project team an additional $420,000 for rail-trail design and construction.  With support from the Division of Highways, design will commence immediately with construction slated for 2016.  A ground breaking event is being planned for this summer.

The groups will fundraise for additional rail-trail construction and maintenance funds.  On Saturday, May 2nd PRTC will host the 11th annual Cheat Fest 5K with proceeds benefitting rail-trail projects in Preston County.  Sign up to participate at

PRTC is eager to get more community members involved.  The group meets the first Monday of each month at 5pm at the FOC offices in Kingwood.  Learn more at

Kingwood Hike with the Preston Ramblers


On the afternoon of Sunday, June 30th, the Preston Ramblers, a group of hikers rallied by the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) of Friends of the Cheat, met at the future trail head of the West Virginia Northern rail-trail near the historic water tower in Kingwood. Four committee members were joined by two community members interested in learning more about the Committee’s rail-trail projects, including how they could get involved. Although it was a hot afternoon, the hikers and a canine companion had a great walk.

Group Picture

Preston Ramblers and guests get ready for a summer hike on the proposed WV Northern Trail

Preston Ramblers organize excursions on rail-trails and future rail-trails throughout the area for members of the community to get acquainted with the trails and learn more about rail-trail development efforts in Preston County. The West Virginia Northern and the Cheat River CSXT line are two rail-trail projects that the Preston Ramblers are promoting in 2013.

The group’s next hike will start from the Tunnelton end of the West Virginia Northern Railroad line, on Thursday July 11th at 6pm, meeting at the Honor Roll area in Tunnelton which is across Rt. 26 from the school. PRTC intents to look over the area and try to come up with a plan for the trail head for that area.  PRTC welcomes new people enthusiastic about the plethora of benefits that rail-trails bring to the area.  Learn more about PRTC and their efforts at and by joining the Preston Rail-Trail Committee group on Facebook.  PRTC meets the first Monday of each month at the Friends of the Cheat office in Kingwood at 5pm.

Friends of the Cheat Receives Property Donation


Friends of the Cheat has received a donation of property including the historic wooden water tower associated with the former West Virginia Northern Railroad.  Stanley Hostler has donated approximately 2.5 acres of land and the water tower to the non-profit organization which is seeking to facilitate the revitalization of the properties associated with the former railroad into a public park and trailhead for the future Kingwood to Tunnelton rail-trail.  Mr. Hostler’s donation was motivated by the renewed community interest in the brownfield sites.  Kern Valley Railroad still retains ownership of the main shop buildings and railroad corridor.  Friends of the Cheat has been pursuing the purchase of the Kern Valley Railroad properties for nearly ten years.

FOC’s new OSM/VISTA (left), Aubrey Harris, stands with Appalachian Coal Country Team Northern Coalfields VISTA leader, Katie Coulter, next to the historic tower which is believed to be over a century old.

Friends of the Cheat is working closely with the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PcPARC) and Preston County Economic Development Authority to advance the development of the properties located off Sisler Street in Kingwood.  The group held two brainstorming sessions in July to gather public input in an effort to develop a re-use plan for the properties.  Ideas include a trailhead and associated amenities for the future rail-trail, a dog park, community garden, and open air market for farmer’s markets, live music, and other community events with an underlying focus on highlighting the rich history of the railroad and how it shaped Preston County.  Friends of the Cheat’s first action will be to work with Preservation Alliance of West Virginia to stabilize and restore the water tower.


FOC_WVBrownfields Conference_FOCUS II Presentation

An artist’s rendering of the reuse vision developed by community members at two WV FOCUS-funded stakeholder meetings. Drawing by Mary Luckini.

WV Northern Maintenance Properties: On the Right Track to Revitalization


In early 2012, Friends of the Cheat was awarded a $5,000 grant through the 2012 FOCUS WV Brownfields program to address barriers to the redevelopment of the former WV Northern/Kern Valley Railroad Maintenance Facility located within the town limits of Kingwood off Sisler Street.

Painting of the WV Northern shops area by Kingwood native, Marcy Miller Matherne who has graciously donated this print for reproduction to be sold as a fundraiser for the Kingwood-Tunnelton rail-trail project.

The Foundation for Overcoming Challenges and Utilizing Strengths (FOCUS) West Virginia Brownfields program funds were awarded to FOC by the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers through funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The program provides financial and technical assistance enabling communities in West Virginia to create a redevelopment vision for brownfield properties of strategic community interest.

FOC’s Preston Rail-Trail Committee has been working for nearly 10 years to advance the development of the former West Virginian Northern Kingwood-Tunnelton corridor.  The current owner, Kern Valley Railroad is a willing seller and, in 2007, committed to donating the maintenance facility property pending FOC’s purchase of the 10-mile corridor.  As part of their ARRA Brownfields Project, the Preston County Development Authority funded an environmental assessment of the maintenance facility, or “shops” property in 2010.  In fall 2011, neighborhoods raised concerns about the stability of the historic wooden water tower and other safety issues.  They requested that Kingwood City Council take action and condemn the property.  Condemnation would prevent FOC from utilizing Federal grant funds to purchase the property.  In an effort to demonstrate FOC’s commitment to the rail-trail project, FOC nominated the historic wooden water tower to Preservation Alliance WV’s 2012 List of Endangered Properties and applied for the FOCUS grant.  Both actions have brought new life to the project, and FOC is hopeful that its pending Recreational Trails grant application for the corridor purchase will be funded.

In July 2012, FOC will facilitate two community visioning sessions in an effort to develop of a re-use plan for properties associated with the former WV Northern/Kern Valley Railroad Maintenance Facility.

The first session will be held Monday, July 9th starting at 7pm at the Preston Community Arts Center on South Price Street in Kingwood.  The meeting will begin with a presentation outlining the current state of the properties, including identifying assets and liabilities, followed by a brainstorming session on community need and re-use ideas.

The second session will be held Thursday, July 26th starting at 7pm at the WVU Extension Office on West Court Street in Kingwood.  The meeting will begin with a summary of the first session.  FOC will present information compiled from the first meeting including a preliminary site plan in sketch form for feedback and additional brainstorming.

The vision sessions are open meetings and all community members are encouraged to participate in both meetings.  Current ideas for the site include a trail head for the future Kingwood to Tunnelton rail-trail, restoring the historic wooden water tower, dog park, open-air farmer’s market, community garden, and incorporating historic railroad elements into a public park type setting.

Mary Luckini will be working with FOC staff to host the meetings and visualize the plan.  Mary worked with FOC back in 2008 to develop the initial drawings of the Doug Ferris Outdoor Classroom and Eloise Morgan Milne pavilion.  She also worked with FOC E.D. Amanda Pitzer on service-learning projects and environmental art, including the Friends of Deckers Creek Outdoor Learning Park along the Deckers Creek rail-trail.  Additional technical assistance during the workshops will be provided by Triad staff.

The Preston Rail-Trail Committee has been organizing Preston Rambles group hikes and bikes to promote health and wellness and build community support for the rail-trail projects. Like their new Facebook Page and stay informed of upcoming events including the opportunity to explore the former West Virginia Northern Railroad on foot.

Support FOC on #GivingTuesday

Donate to FOC's Education and Outreach Program on December 1st, 2021!