CAIRO - The North Bend Rails-to-Trails Foundation has announced initiatives to improve the trail along its four-county,72-mile path in Harrison, Doddridge, Ritchie and Wood counties
With North Bend State Park and the rail trail superintendent, the foundation has established four primary areas:
* Purchase a trailer to haul maintenance equipment.
* Improve pit toilets by providing handicapped ramps, repair and fix windows and doors.
* Concentrate on raising more maintenance funds for trail surface improvement.
* Restore historical artifacts such as signal lights, whistle signs and signal boxes.
The greatest need by the maintenance crew is a trailer to haul equipment. When the trail crew starts mowing the trail each year, they must drive the mower and tractor to each mowing site and then drive the equipment back to the park.
The second most critical need for the trail is updates and repairs to the pit toilets and picnic areas. Most of these sites have been in place for more than a decade and the toilets need handicapped ramps and the doors and windows need repair or replacement. Some picnic shelters also need repairs.
The third priority is resurfacing of the trail. Donations have already been used by the foundation to improve the surface between Pennsboro and Tollgate. The concept of the maintenance fund is for every $5 donation for a yard of surfacing stone, the foundation will match it.
Maintaining the surface means an improvement in tourism and health.Citizens can take advantage of walking, running, biking or horseback riding to not only enjoy the outdoors but also to improve healthy life-styles.
In addition to the maintenance fund, the foundation secures grants for trail surface work. Earlier this year the foundation completed a $22,500 Change the Future WV grant administered by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department. This grant resulted in surfacing more than 20 miles of the rail trail in Ritchie County.
The foundation is awaiting a notice to proceed with a $100,000 federal transportation grant for surfacing in Doddridge County. In the past decade, the foundation has administered two $100,000 federal grants for the North Bend Rail Trail.
Finally, historical preservation is the fourth project of trail development that relates to pride in local communities and West Virginia. The old railroad lines were vital to growth of America long before the Civil War. The old signals, switches, whistle signs and much more are relics of the last century and deserve to be maintained and displayed along the trail.
"The foundation will be running local ads and sending out letters to businesses, organizations, government officials and Rail Trail Foundation members seeking community support and donations," said foundation Chairman Mark Abbott. "With the recession and cutbacks in government funding, it's important to find new sources of funding and support for trails in West Virginia."
The foundation is continually looking for ways to improve the trail, he said.
An 8-foot wide mower deck was purchased to replace a smaller, worn out, 5-foot deck. After the June 29 derecho, the foundation purchased a pole saw which allowed the crew to safely and easily remove broken and low hanging branches on the trail.
"These are just a few of the things the foundation is doing to keep the trail as a valuable tourism asset for West Virginia," Abbott said.
Each county on the trail is represented by local directors who bring issues before the larger foundation board and state park officials. The board meets monthly in different counties.
The counties and their representatives are Jim Helmick and Frank Glesner of Harrison County; David Kimble and Patricia Harris of Doddridge County; James Jones, Ken Adams, D.J. Allen and Mike Ring of Ritchie County; Tim McClung and Mark Abbott of Wood County.
Burt Neswald of Ritchie County is the equestrian director for the foundation and represents the four counties.
For more information or to contribute, go to the foundation website at northbendrailtrail.org, mail a donation to NBRT Foundation, PO Box 206, Cairo, WV 26337, or call 304-628-3777.