IAEGER — Millions of dollars for needed utilities and thousands more for tourism projects were among the Transportation Alternatives Grant Awards announced Friday for county and municipal improvement projects across southern West Virginia.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday, during a meeting at Tamarack, projects recommendations that will use grant funding for economic development of abandoned mine land sites.

The grant funding, provided by the federal government through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), is administered by the WVDEP’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office. The recipients applied for the grant funding earlier this year and were each considered by a committee of representatives from the WVDEP, West Virginia Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, and the Governor’s Office.

OSMRE must give final approval of the projects and amounts awarded, according to the Governor’s Office. Justice will continue to announce Abandoned Mine Land Grant recommendations over the coming weeks.

The recommended grants for McDowell County projects included:

• A grant of $4.115 million to the McDowell Public Service District to provide sewer service to 115 homes in Ashland and Crumpler, and to support expansion of Hatfield-McCoy Trail lodging businesses.

• A $2,278,500 grant to Ashland Resort Tourism Development for the expansion of the existing Hatfield-McCoy Trail amenities such as cabins, ATV facilities, camp store, outdoor entertainment complex, and reclamation of abandoned coal mine features.

• A $1 million grant to the Iaeger Regional Sewer Project, which will provide sewer service to 112 customers and allow for growth of Hatfield-McCoy trail related lodging.

• A $238,000 grant to the McDowell PSD’s Berwind Water Treatment Plant to modernize water treatment and increase capacity for Berwind Lake Park.

• A $1.5 million grant to the town of Bradshaw for the rehabilitation of the town’s sanitary sewer system.

Justice also awarded several Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails program grants. The West Virginia Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program is administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation and funded by the Federal Highway Administration,according to the governor’s announcement. These grants help towns and cities build and improve sidewalks, lighting, and rail trails.

The projects awarded include:

• The town of Athens, the Athens Park Trail will receive $48,126 in federal funding. This is to design and construct a walking trail within the Athens Town Park. The total project cost is $60,157.

• The Bluestone River Water Trail Group was awarded $150,000 in federal funding. This is for the design of a hiking trail with river access along Brush Creek from the community of Gardner to the Bluestone National Scenic River, on to Pipestem State Park and along Camp Creek to Camp Creek State Park all within Mercer County.

County Commissioner Bill Archer attended Friday’s ceremonies at Tamarack with County Administrator Vicky Reed and Litter Control Officer Josh Parks.

“It’s for the design phase of the project, but it’s a really positive step in making public access to the Bluestone valley trails. I had been working under the assumption that we would not get the grant; as a result of the grant, we can do a really first class job,” Archer said.

The Mercer County Commission will need to contract a firm to design locations such as boat launching areas and determine how those locations could be combined with bicycle trails, hiking trails, and an equestrian trail, Archer said.

“It’s just an exciting event. In addition to Vicky and Josh, and asked Leo Lester to attend with us. When I was campaigning, Leo came up to me and noted there was not public access on the Bluestone River. He is a retired West Virginia Forestry Department worker who lives in Flat Top,” he stated.

Archer credited Reed, Parks, Lester, and Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau, for winning the grant for Mercer County. Kevin Givens with the state Department of Highways helped with the application process, Archer added.

Local municipalities are benefiting from the grants, too.

The town of Iaeger in McDowell County will receive $132,000 of federal funding. This is for construction of approximately 750 linear feet of sidewalk in the town.

A sidewalk project in the city of Princeton will receive $32,000 in federal funding. This is for the design of replacement sidewalk along Straley Avenue and North 8th Street in Princeton. The total cost is $40,000.

 — Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com