Friends of the Cheat (FOC) has been selected to receive $1M dollars in grant funding to expand its Cheat River Rail-Trail project. The project, RECREATING (Reclaiming the Cheat River as an Economic Asset through Trail Investment and Nurturing Greenspaces) continues FOC’s $3.2M RECREATE project, which was also funded by the AML Pilot Program in December 2018.
FOC is spearheading the RECREATING project with four primary goals in mind. First, the Project supports the design and construction of a destination-worthy trailhead for the Cheat River Rail-Trail. This trailhead, at the locally-named “Preston Site,” is located off WV Scenic Route 72 between Kingwood and Rowlesburg, on the north side of the historic trestle bridge crossing the Cheat River. In addition to standard features such as lighted parking, seating, picnic areas, and litter disposal, the Preston Site trailhead will feature an improved river access point, restored fishing pond, and a scenic river overlook on the trestle bridge.
Second, FOC will also partner with the WV Department of Environmental Protection to examine the feasibility of treating polluted waters from nearby Lick Run in a specially-designed facility at the trailhead site. Lick Run is currently the top contributor of damaging acid mine drainage to the Cheat River main stem. This effort will ensure that the Cheat River remains a destination for scenic beauty and recreation for years to come.
Third, the awarded grant includes support for negotiations with private property owners for the hopeful purchase of an additional trail corridor, extending the rail-trail into the historic river city of Rowlesburg. If successful, these negotiations will directly connect the positive economic impact of rail-trails and outdoor recreation into the center of Rowlesburg, allowing visitors to experience the pleasures of the town during their travels.
Finally, the grant includes money to purchase trail maintenance equipment that will be used on the Cheat River Rail-Trail for years after construction is completed, ensuring the project is sustainable well into the future.
This project is a potential boon to Preston County’s burgeoning outdoor recreation industry, which has seen an uptick statewide in the recent years. Kelley Burd-Huss, Community Development Coordinator of Preston Trail Towns, is thrilled with this development.
“We know that trails are the most effective in boosting local economies when they connect directly into towns where bikers, hikers, and paddlers can eat, sleep, and play. Connecting the Cheat River Rail-Trail directly into Rowlesburg will allow Prestonians to share the River City with visitors, and, in doing so, boost Preston County’s economy.”
Rowlesburg resident Mackenzie Hoffer also envisions the rail-trail as a path to a thriving Rowlesburg.
“Having a rail-trail in Rowlesburg will have a lasting positive economic effect on the town. The Cheat River Valley is one of the state’s most beautiful sights to be seen. Rowlesburg is such a quiet and family oriented town that would do nothing but enhance the pleasure found on this trail.”
Construction on the first phase of the Cheat River Rail-Trail is projected to begin in 2021.