KINGWOOD, W.Va. – The Mountaineer Trail Network — a collection of the best non-motorized trails in the eastern United States for bikes and boats — will be formally launched thanks to recent funding. Friends of the Cheat was awarded $1.1 million by the Appalachian Regional Commission on behalf of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority for the project.
Friends of the Cheat and its partners will solidify the newly established Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority, an economic development authority that was launched in 2019 to oversee the creation, launch, and operation of the Mountaineer Trail Network.
The project focuses primarily on developing an outdoor economy in the region based on current and undiscovered trails in 15counties. These counties include Barbour, Doddridge, Grant, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Ritchie, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur and Wood.
Over the next three years, the Authority plan to select four to eight existing, top-grade trail areas in northern West Virginia for inclusion in the Mountaineer Trail Network. POWER funds will be used to enhance and market these trail areas and nearby tourism businesses as a nationally and world-renowned tourism destination for biking and boating.
Although the main focus is on the MTN, the award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal-related industries.
“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”
“This project will provide the marketing, organization, and tourism-focused business development needed to leverage these trails as the world-class assets they truly are,” said Friends of the Cheat Executive Director Amanda Pitzer. “This, in turn, will directly fuel opportunities for new business startups in tourism, lodging, dining, and other related sectors.”
Additional financial support for the Mountaineer Trail Network is provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Fund, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Visit Mountaineer Country Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), Greater Parkersburg CVB, Tucker County CVB, and Marion County CVB. The project has in-kind support from 33 additional project partners, including 15 county commissions, five CVBs, three county economic development authorities, five county parks and recreation commissions, four state parks, West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and Law School, and 14 trail organizations across the project area.
About the sponsors:
Friends of the Cheat is a nonprofit watershed group working to restore a river damaged by a legacy of irresponsible land-use practices; preserve the health and integrity of the watershed against future degradation; promote the watershed as a haven for beauty and recreation; and educate the community on our work and the economic, cultural, and aesthetic value of clean water.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development partnership
agency of the federal government whose mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community
capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.