Funds to bring rail trail repairs

CAIRO – With financial help from the West Virginia Division of Highways, the North Bend Rail Trail State Park will soon begin to receive repairs of years’ worth of accumulative damage.

The North Bend Rail Trail is one of the premier rail trails in West Virginia and has needed maintenance work performed on its eastern section for many years, but funding has not been available, said Mark Abbott, chairman of the North Bend Rails-To-Trails Foundation.

“The biggest issues we have is from water,” he said. “Over the years, the rock bed of the rails has been washed away and changed by water collecting and running off.”

Not only has the water caused issues with the ground, but also equipment, including culverts, one of which has rusted through and must be replaced.

In order to fix these problems and make the rail trail as safe as possible, the West Virginia Division of Highways has awarded an additional $300,000 grant through its non-traditional grant programs for the repairs.

“This additional $300,000 will join the $100,000 the rail trail was previously awarded to about double the size of the project,” Abbott said.

This second grant brings the total grant funds for the project to more than $400,000. The first $100,000 is compromised of $80,000 from the WVDOH’s Recreational Trails Program and the foundation’s $20,000 in matching funds raised for the work on the Doddridge County portion of the rail trail.

“With all of the grant money in place, we will have a team of engineers to look through the rail trail and figure out what needs to be fixed and how best to do it,” Abbott said.

While the original grant was to work on the rail trail in Doddridge County, as a result of the additional funding, the scope of the project has been expanded to include Harrison County and a small portion of the trail in Ritchie County. This work will cover more than 20 miles of the 72-mile trail that stretches from Wood to Harrison counties.

“This second grant allows us to expand the repairs to the end of the trail in Harrison County, which about doubles the size of the job,” Abbott said.

The partnership of the WVDOH, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the North Bend Rails-To-Trails Foundation has retained consultant engineering firm Michael Baker to develop construction plans, assist with the bidding of the construction portion of the project and oversee the contractor’s work.

Abbott said the improvements will include tread and surface hardening and much-needed drainage work along the trail.

Engineering studies are expected to begin this spring as the snow melts before the actual work begins. Abbott said he does not expect the project to be completed for at least two years.

The $20,000 match was raised by the rail trail foundation, Doddridge County Commission, Doddridge County Economic Development Authority, West Union Bank, Doddridge County Community Foundation, Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, W.Va. State Park Foundation and The McDonough Foundation.