Major Fayette County trail projects hoping for Abandoned Mine Land grant funding

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The Fayette County Commission met on Wednesday in a special session to talk Abandoned Mine Land grants. The hope is to secure two big ones to further develop multi-use trails in the area in the Upper Kanawha Valley and at Wolf Creek Park.

The River Cities Trail has been in the works since about 2018. This  will be a huge multi-use trail in the Upper Kanawha Valley that will connect the Tech Trails on the old WVU Tech campus in Montgomery to the bridge to Smithers. Then, there will be a riverside trail that will stretch from the Montgomery Marina to the Gateway Center in Smithers and then on to Cannelton.

It is a project that both Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram and Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier have been advocating for trying to secure the full $1.8 million to complete.

In Wednesday’s meeting, the county commission pledged $150,000 in matching funds if they receive the grant. They’re hoping to get matching funds from Kanawha County as well.

“It would be a trail, a public space for all users, users of all types, all ages,” Fayette County Resource Coordinator Gabriel Peña said. “Pretty moderate and a riverside trail that really capitalizes on the natural beauty of the Upper Kanawha Valley.”

It is also aimed to capitalize on the potential for adventure tourism in an area in need of an economic boost.

The hope is that the matched funding as well as the county’s letter pledging the support will make the initiative competitive to win the funding this year. This will add to Fayette County’s overarching mission to connect the entire county through trail systems.

“It’s something that takes a little bit of time,” Commissioner John Brenemen said. “In the past we’ve relied on other resources to keep the county going and those resources just aren’t working out that well, so we need to start looking toward different resources in order to bring the economic development back in.”

A good example of this is Wolf Creek Park in Fayetteville. This past year the county invested $150,000 of coal severance to begin trail development at the business park. Because of a strong volunteer effort to build trails on top of the recent professional development, it’s been actively used already.

Wolf Creek Park will also be applying for grant money to get a conservation easement on 740 acres of the park to further develop.

“The trail’s not totally complete yet, but what they have completed is being heavily used at this point by the mountain bike community within Fayette County, New River Gorge region all over the East Coast,” Peña said.

The grant applications are due at the end of the month.

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Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.