RICHWOOD, W.Va. — The Rahall Transportation Institute is nearing the end of a yearlong feasibility study on the creation of an ATV trail in central West Virginia that could go through parts of Nicholas, Webster, and Lewis counties.
At a presentation Thursday night, RTI Trails Program Manager Amanda Payne explained to stakeholders and the public what the feasibility study had accomplished thus far.
“Where the large tracks of parcel are?” she asked. “Where the amenities are? Where is the lodging? Where is the restaurants? Where is the possibility of a contiguous trail system? Is it possible for sustainable trail system in this area?”
Several county commissioners and state Senator Greg Boso (R-Nicholas, 11) attended the meeting to get a full update on the RTI feasibility study. Boso, a lifelong Nicholas County resident, said the massive coal losses need to be offset–and this is as good a place as any to begin.
“West Virginia has taken it on the chin,” he said. “And we’ve got to find new ways to diversify our economy, be able to draw people from outside the state into the state, and do it in a fairly economical fashion so we can begin growing West Virginia–essentially central West Virginia.”
An ATV trail can span for hundreds of miles–acting essentially as an off-road highway. There is already one ATV trail in West Virginia–the Hatfield McCoy trails. It was ranked #1 trail system on the East Coast by Dirt Wheels Magazine.
The Nicholas County Commission paid for a feasibility study that directly studies it’s economic impact in the county. Senator Boso believes that study will help set the groundwork for other counties where the trail could potentially go.
“That sets the ground work that can be utilized by other counties within this consortium for the purposes of growing and creating good economic development in central West Virginia,” Boso said.
With coal severance dollars dwindling and more miner layoffs, Senator Boso and others see the ATV trail as a major potential creator of jobs in central West Virginia.
“We know that the Obama administration has indicated that there is grant opportunities and funding opportunities to be able to get our miners that are now out of work back to work,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to do that.”
The feasibility study ends in December.
“The entire year of 2015 we have been looking at ‘what is where?’ Payne said.
And that’s a key question, according to Lynch. That question could lead to the answers the RTI is looking for on all the previous questions asked during the study.
Findings could be presented during the next legislative session.