LEWISBURG — Leaning on West Virginia legislation passed earlier this year, the New River Gorge Trail Alliance (NRGTA) is seeking area support to form an authority that will govern nonmotorized trail systems in a multi-county region.

The Greenbrier County commissioners recently agreed to sign a letter of support for the concept, pitched by the alliance’s president, Bill Wells.

Wells said the nonprofit organization is in the process of rebranding as the Mountain State Trail Alliance. According to a Feb. 23 article by Wendy Holdren in The Register-Herald, the NRGTA comprises Fayette, Nicholas and Greenbrier counties, with an eye toward expanding to embrace as many as five more counties, including Raleigh and Kanawha.

Thus far, the NRGTA has received around $2 million in grant funding to facilitate its work in building a regional hiking and biking trail system, Wells told Greenbrier commissioners Tuesday evening.

That endeavor, he said, received an added boost with the West Virginia Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 317 this year, authorizing groups composed of at least three contiguous counties to form trail authorities for systems that do not permit motorized vehicles. Motorized trails, including the Hatfield and McCoy Trail, already were empowered to form trail authorities, Wells said.

A nonmotorized trail authority in this region would potentially open state funding opportunities and provide enforcement powers over such crucial components as trail access, Wells said. He added that he anticipates a systemwide maintenance program would be implemented and an executive director hired as well.

The NRGTA is now in the process of applying for an additional grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) that in its first year would fund work done by a steering committee toward forming a trail authority and in its second year would provide full or partial funding for that authority’s inaugural year of operation.

Wells said the budget for those two years is set at $324,000. The NRGTA has already received positive feedback from the Benedum Foundation on a request for $65,000 in matching funds required to draw down the ARC funding, he said.

“We feel hopeful that will be awarded,” he said of the Benedum funding.

Wells’ request for a letter from Greenbrier County officials was in response to ARC’s need for a demonstration of local support for this project.

He emphasized that, while the county is making no funding commitment with the letter of support, Greenbrier will ultimately have to contribute to ongoing funding of a trail authority, if such an organization is formed.

Wells also assured commissioners that, despite flood-created delays in completing the Meadow River Trail, which runs through portions of Greenbrier and Fayette counties, the Meadow River rail-trail is included in the overall plans for a southern West Virginia system. Meadow River Trail is in the anticipated Beckley to Richwood section of the system, he said.

Furthermore, he said, plans call for the Greenbrier River Trail to be extended to Hinton, with connections also made to White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg.

“We’d like to have a trail system that people can ride for a week,” Wells said.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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