June 06, 2015

North Bend Rail Trail worth celebrating | Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Today marks American Hiking Society's Annual National Trails Day. Each year, hundreds of thousands of outdoor-loving Americans and West Virginians participate in hikes and other activities on our beautiful trail system. Today, we celebrate our 200,000 miles of trails and we honor the work of thousands of the volunteers and non-profit organizations that play a role in the development and upkeep that creates such wonderful recreation opportunities.

Our state has a rich history in the culture of trails. As home to 36 state parks and host of a section of the Appalachian Trail, West Virginia is painted with a multitude of trails across her mountains and valleys. Our state motto, Montani Semper Liberi -  Mountaineers are Always Free -  is a true testament to the value the people of West Virginia place in the recreation that is being celebrated on National Trails Day. The simple fact that we, as West Virginians, are referred to as Mountaineers is an indication to the degree in which hiking is integrated into our unique terrain and identity.

I'm sure most West Virginians can think of a trail or State Park where they have spent time or explored. Having grown up in North Central West Virginia, the trails that hold a particular significance to me are Dolly Sods in the Monongahela National Forest and Blackwater Falls Trail in Canaan Valley. These and all of the magnificent parks and trails within our borders truly connect our communities and create endless opportunities for both residents and visitors alike.

An important part of our trail culture to keep in mind while celebrating this weekend is the West Virginia Rails-to-Trails program. This outstanding program has successfully transformed our discontinued train tracks into new opportunities for hiking, biking and horse riding, and it has undoubtedly impacted our tourism industry, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from around the country. Today, there are 30 rail trails, totaling more than 375 miles across the state recognized by the West Virginia Division of Tourism.

In honor of National Trails Day, I would like specifically recognize the North Bend Rail Trail, a 72-mile trail from Wood County to Harrison County. Last month, it was announced that North Bend Rail Trail received $1.035 million in grants from the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails and Transportation Enhancement Program to improve the trail and make it more accessible to the public. I am so thankful for all those in the community and those at the North Bend Rail Trail Foundation for making this a reality. Investments like these are something to be proud of as we celebrate our trail system today.

From steep, harrowing paths for the seasoned hiker only, to leisurely strolls for the whole family to enjoy, West Virginia truly offers some of the nation's best trails suited for adventurers of every level of ambition and experience. I encourage all West Virginians to take part in celebrating National Trails Day. Be it through hiking, volunteering, or simply spreading awareness of the American Hiking Society's movement, celebrating the trails and volunteers of our state is an important part of who we are and where we live.

Our state has been, and continues to be recognized for its beauty, so I ask, what better way to experience that beauty than to take a hike on one of our trails this Saturday?

By:  By Sen. Joe Manchin