Despite ongoing challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, tourism is still a vital growth engine for Mercer County. That’s why we were pleased to learn that state funding is now in place to help begin work on the long-planned Bluestone River Trail project for Mercer County.
Just like so many other undertakings in our region, the waterway, hiking and biking trail project was delayed as a result of the pandemic. However, with the recent award of a $150,000 grant from the West Virginia Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program, all of the funding needed to develop the new tourism initiative is now in place.
The project previously received a $150,000 state grant, which has not yet been used, for trail design, County Commissioner Bill Archer said last month. The new $150,000 grant will be spent on the trail’s construction once the design work is ready.
The hope with the project is to create additional tourism and recreational opportunities for visitors who are already traveling to the region each week to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. The project aims to use waterways, trails and existing rails to provide new recreational opportunities while also showcasing the area’s beauty.
“I think now the first leg of that project is good to go,” Archer said. “We’ll be ready as soon as we can create the design and start construction. I think it’s a positive thing and I think it will be great because it will connect us to the Bluestone (River), and once there, we’re also hopeful to be able to continue the trail down to Pipestem.”
As currently envisioned, the trail will start at the Brush Creek Falls Pavilion along Brush Creek Road. A trail section going to the falls will be improved, then it will be extended to the Bluestone River. The overall vision for the Bluestone River Trail involves kayaking and other water recreation along with hiking, biking and other trails.
Previous ideas for the trail included getting right-of-ways to take it over some private properties, but that proved to be a challenge, Archer said. The new plan calls for running the trail across property owned by the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, which is now a partner on the project.
Now that pandemic restrictions are being relaxed in West Virginia, Archer said members of the Bluestone Water Trail committee will be able to start meeting again and resume work on the project.
The sooner construction can begin on this important new tourism initiative the better.
Tourism is one of our region’s growth areas. The more local attractions that are developed the greater the ability of area officials to market our region as a tourism destination.