PRINCETON — Plans are moving ahead for a kayaking route and trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding that could give tourists new activities when they come to Mercer County.

Members of the Bluestone Valley Trail Group met recently with a representative of the architectural firm E.L. Robinson, County Commissioner Bill Archer said Wednesday. Landscape architect Todd Schoolcraft made the presentation.

“He advised that Phase I of the development should focus on the trail from U.S. Route 19 in Camp Creek to the Bluestone River,” Archer said. “And also simulaneously from the Brush Creek Falls State Park to the Bluestone River. We’re in the process of talking with property owners and one of assistant prosecuting attorneys, Adam Wolfe, is working on easement agreements so we can work with the property owners.”

The trails will be multi-use, non-motorized trails for hiking, bicycle riding and access to kayak routes on the rier, he said. 

“As we expand, we’ll be working on equestrian trails also,” Archer added. “Camp Creek itself could support kayaking right now with the water levels we have, but also in the summer season and most of the spring.”

“I attended the Celebration of the Rivers last Saturday up at the New River Gorge State Park there in Fayette County, and the people I spoke with up there were aware of what we are doing and excited,” Archer recalled.  “One of the keynote speakers at that event was former congressman Nick Rahall, and he said, ‘The Bluestone River is the hidden gem of the whole region.’ In general terms, the word is getting out and it looks like the support is coming together.”

A lot of work including a cleanup of the Bluestone River will have to be accomplished before the water lane is ready for visiting kayakers. Archer said the water trail group was ready to take on that task.

“Absolutely. We have the volunteers on the committee. The Bluestone Valley Trails Committee are workers,” he stated. “They’re all eager to help.”

Work could begin after winter passes and the property easements are in place. The design phase is being funded by a $150,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Recreational Trails Program.

“If we have the easements in hand, just as soon as possible,” Archer said when asked how soon work on the trails could start.

Creating opportunities for kayaking and hiking would give tourists who come to Mercer County and neighboring Tazewell County to ride the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail and the Spearhead Trail more options for recreation. Plans also call for eventually connecting the trails to trail systems in Summers County, Archer said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Senior Reporter