Officials reopen walking trail

PARKERSBURG – A walking and biking trail near Point Park was reopened earlier this month after falling chunks of concrete caused it to be closed for two weeks.

City Engineer Justin Smith said officials closed a section of the trail for two weeks last month after city crews noticed chunks of concrete had fallen onto the path.

The concrete came from an anchorage, a large hollow pier once part of the old Belpre Bridge, which was demolished in 1980. The structure is located near the Parkersburg CSX Railroad Bridge.

Smith said the anchorage is hollow inside with a concrete outer structure. The inside leads down into a 30-foot deep pit where cables for the suspension bridge were anchored to bedrock.

When the bridge was demolished in 1980, the anchorage was left intact because it is effectively part of the flood wall.

West Virginia Department of Transportation crews from District 3 last month carved away pieces of loose and decaying concrete, Smith said. The trail was reopened after officials determined there was no longer a danger of falling debris, he said.

Still, both state and local officials are studying what must be done with the aging structure.

Mayor Bob Newell said he has spoken with the transportation department.

“They were going to start looking at the prospect of tearing it down,” he said.

Any move to demolish the structure would have to be quickly followed by construction of a new section of flood wall, Newell said. Removing the anchorage will be a long process, Newell said.

“It’s nothing that would happen very quickly because once that is done a new portion of the flood wall will have to be constructed,” he said. “You can’t delay construction of the wall. It has to be done immediately and during dry weather. It will have be demolished and rebuilt in a relatively short window of time.

“It won’t happen while I’m still in office, I’m sure,” Newell said.

In the meantime, city officials will continue to maintain and expand the walking trail where possible, Smith said.. Officials recently applied for a grant to build a bridge across Pond Run, which would extend the trail to 12th Street.

“That will be a nice addition to the trail,” Smith said.