Two Rail Trail State Parks Are in Danger of Closing…
Tourism Is One of the Only Growth Industries in the State
A friend of mine at the Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission, based in Parkersburg, W.Va., recently posted a request and the message below to Facebook, asking for support in reaching out to Eric Nelson, Member of the WV Legislature for the 35th District in Kanawha County, and Chairman of the House Finance Committee – in support of the North Bend Rail Trail and the Greenbrier River Trail.
These two Trails, which together contribute an annual return of $10 Million for the WV State Park System, are in danger of closing due to budget cuts, and contribute to the State’s Tourism Industry, one of the few growth industries of which W.Va. can boast at this time.
Please copy and paste this message below, and email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a Tweet to Chairman Nelson via www.twitter.com/ericnelsonjr – to support this effort to raise awareness of the impact these closures would have on our Tourism Industry.
Please use the hashtags #NorthBendRailTrail and/or #GreenbrierRiverTrail in support of this effort – and thank you!
The Honorable Eric Nelson
Rm 462M, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Dear WV Budget Committee member,
Recently an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail spelled out “hypothetical” scenarios calling for the closing of the North Bend Rail Trail along with the Greenbrier River Trail. The purpose of this letter is to urge your support to reject the closing of the North Bend Rail Trail.
Closing either of these trails would have a significant impact on the tourism business of hiking, biking and horseback riding in West Virginia.
Why these two nationally recognized trails were even suggested for closure is puzzling.
For instance, a December 2015 economic study performed for the WV State Park system noted an annual return greater than $10 million from these two trails.
In addition, closing the North Bend Rail Trail will end a national effort by the Rail Trail Conservancy to create the Industrial Heartland Trail. As it is envisioned now, the North Bend Rail Trail would be the southern-most “anchor” to a 1,500 mile trail through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It would be one of the three longest trails in the United States.
In support of this effort, nearly 300 bicyclists from all over the United States will travel the North Bend Rail Trail in June on a Sojourn sponsored by the national Rail Trail Conservancy. The whole purpose of this massive effort is to prove the economic value of trails to states and local communities.
Closing the North Bend Rail Trail will create an unprecedented gap in the historic national American Discovery Trail which stretches from coast to coast.
To either close the trail or make it unstaffed is not a viable option. Many West Virginia citizens of all ages use the trail on a daily basis to improve their healthy life-style and just to enjoy the scenic beauty that IS the North Bend Rail Trail.
Closing the trail also will not relieve the State of West Virginia from its responsibility as owner of the former rail road bed because of its “rail banked” status with the WV Rail Authority.
Without maintenance on the culverts alone (most are well over 100 years old) serious private property damage will occur. Just last year a single rain event caused nearly a quarter million dollars in private property damage. Compared to the small annual budget for park staff and maintenance, the potential for future liability is staggering.
We realize the budget cuts faced by West Virginia are serious and cannot be solved quickly; however, we also believe closing or not staffing these historic state park properties will adversely affect tourism which will likely become far more important to West Virginia’s economic growth in the future.
Thank you for your consideration.