FAIRMONT, W.Va. – City of Fairmont officials are creating opportunities for people to connect with trails in their neighborhoods.  

The city has been awarded $12,500 by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The award is a part of $308,500 grant across 16 states for 45 different projects.  

“At RTC, we believe that trails have the power to transform communities and create joyful,
vibrant public spaces that are equitable and inclusive,” said Liz Thorstensen, RTC’s vice
president of trail development. “These grants are intentional investments in the partners
and people who are working on the ground—in their neighborhoods and in their states—to
establish the programming and the infrastructure necessary to invite everyone living in a
community to enjoy their trails. Our partners are leading the way to a future where trails
connect everyone, everywhere.”

Marion County Parks and Recreation Rail Trail sign (WBOY Image)

Officials plan to use the money to extend one mile of the West Fork River Trail. The extension will help close part of the gap in the Pittsburgh to Parkersburg trail. 

Shae Strait, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Fairmont officials mentioned the project will offer people the opportunity to enjoy recreational activities for physical and mental health benefits; it will also help with transportation.  

“Many folks can use this trail system as a way to get to work or to a friend’s house or other things that they may want to travel to via bicycle or foot,” Strait said. “So it gives them a dedicated safe route to do that, away from automobiles, which is one of the reasons why we’ve had to do so much planning for this trail, to make sure that we can build it in such a way that it accomplishes that and gives us the safest best route possible.”

Strait said the trails can also offer children a safe way to get to school.  

The city has spent nearly the last decade planning the extension of the trail. The trail is currently 14.5 miles long and starts at Country Club Road in Fairmont and ends at Lynn Street in Shinnston. It’s part of the Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Trail corridor Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition which connects Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York with trails.  

Strait said this is one of the few infrastructures and amenity projects they can implement that will impact nearly every neighborhood in the county and will give them all an opportunity to enjoy recreational activities. 

Currently, Marion County Parks and Recreation maintains the trails in the county.

Construction could start as early as summer 2022 pending the sale and approval of the land. Strait said it could take nearly a year to complete the partial extension of the trail.