January 18, 2017 by Austin Weiford, The Exponent Telegram. Reprinted by permission.
Lost Creek, W.Va. – The first in a series of community meetings on the future of Harrison County’s rail trails took place at the Lost Creek Community Building Tuesday evening.
The meeting, which was hosted by Harrison Rail Trails in cooperation with the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, entailed discussion and feedback among community members interested in connecting trail sections throughout the county.
After informational presentations from Anna Withrow, a Brownfield redevelopment specialist; Kent Spellman, a representative for the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition; and Diana Druga, president of Harrison Rail Trails, attendees formed groups to discuss assets of the trail section to the south of Lost Creek, as well as challenges in restoring that section and possible solutions.
Of particular note was a trestle bridge that is in need of repair or replacement.
The information gathered will be used to create a trail development plan later this year.
“I think the meeting went great,” Withrow said. “We got good feedback on general things. There are still some more details that need to be followed up on, but we have a good start.”
Withrow said development of the trail south of Lost Creek would present various challenges.
“With this section, it looks like we need to connect with people in Lewis County on what they’re doing with their trails so that we have something that we’re leading to,” Withrow said. “With the trestle bridge, it’s going to be a big expense, but it’s also going to be a key attraction once the trail is finished, and it might be more likely to attract people if they are coming from either side.”
Spellman said the meeting was a success.
“We were really happy with the turnout and the level of engagement that all of those who were here gave the process,” Spellman said. “We think that this is a great core group that we can build on to move this project forward in the southern part of the county. We came up with a great list of other people that we need to bring to the table, so there will be some outreach work to be done, but the idea here is to first make sure everybody’s heard.”
Community members interested in the rail trail are going to be critical in moving the project forward, Spellman said.
Harrison County Planning Director Charlotte Shaffer said the meeting provided good information. But she pointed out that for Harrison County commissioners to back development of the trail southward, Lewis County officials would have to start working on the trails there as well.
“It comes down to the commissioners,” Shaffer said. “And they have been very supportive or the rail trail in the past. Currently we have a section of trail in the design process that would connect Lost Creek to Clarksburg. But right now, connecting Lost Creek to Lewis County is seen as a waste of money and a huge liability. Lewis County needs to be building trails.”
Shaffer also said she had proposed a grant to develop a four-mile section of trail from Adamston to Wolf Summit, which would complete a rail trail all the way to Parkersburg.
Spellman said he’s optimistic that progress can be made on developing the area’s rail trails.
“I think there’s a lot of momentum in the region for building this trail system and moving this forward after it’s been somewhat stagnant for a number of years,” Spellman said. “We’ve got the right people and partners in place, and I think it’s very doable. This is not a quick process. It takes many years and a lot of different grant applications and funding proposals to get the pieces put together, but you’ve got to have that excitement and momentum to get it going.”
Harrison Rail Trails plans to hold three more community meetings — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — around the county: Jan. 24 at the Shinnston’s Woman’s Club, Jan. 31 at the Harrison County Parks and Recreation Complex and Feb. 7 at Clarksburg City Hall. Informational flyer here.
Contact: Anna Withrow, Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center
(304) 293-7002; firstname.lastname@example.org
Brownfields include all property, which is hindered from redevelopment, or reuse due to the presence or perceived presence of a hazardous substance, or contaminant.
About the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers
The West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers were created in 2005 by the West Virginia Legislature to empower communities to plan and implement redevelopment projects. The Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center is a program of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University and serves the northern 33 counties in West Virginia. The West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University, located in Huntington, West Virginia is housed within the Center for Environmental, Geotechnical, and Applied Sciences and serves the southern 22 counties in West Virginia.