KINGWOOD – Friends of the Cheat received $ 1.1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission on behalf of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority.
Friends of the Cheat is a non-profit group that works to restore the River Cheat. The objective of this project is to officially launch the Mountaineer Trail Network “As a collection of the best non-motorized trails in the eastern United States for bikes and boats,” says a press release from Friends of Cheat.
Friends of the Cheat and its partners will strengthen the new recreational authority of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority, an economic development authority established by the West Virginia legislature in 2019 to oversee the creation, launch and operation of the Mountaineer Trail Network.
The core work for this project is focused on developing a regional outdoor economy based on current (and largely undiscovered) trails in the Friends of the Cheat 15 county service area, including Randolph, Upshur, Barbour, Tucker, Doddridge, Grant, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, Preston, Ritchie, Taylor and Wood).
“The downturn in the coal industry has had an impact on the Appalachian economies. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative is helping leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-affected communities, ” said Gayle Manchin, federal co-chair of the CRA. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting infrastructure, including broadband access. These investments in our communities affected by Appalachian coal are essential to level the playing field in the economy so that our communities can prosper. “
“This project will provide the marketing, organization and tourism-driven business development necessary to leverage these trails as the world-class assets that they truly are,” said Amanda Pitzer, executive director of Friends of the Cheat. “This in turn will directly fuel opportunities for new start-ups in tourism, accommodation, food and other related industries.”
Over the next three years, the Authority will select four to eight premium trail areas in northern West Virginia for inclusion in the Mountaineer Trail network. POWER funds will be used to improve and market these trail areas and nearby tourism businesses as a nationally and globally recognized tourist destination for biking and boating, a press release from Friends of the Cheat says.
Additional financial support for the Mountaineer Trail Network is provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Fund, the US Bureau of Surface Mine Recovery and Enforcement, Visit Mountaineer Country Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB ), Greater Parkersburg CVB, Tucker County CVB, and Marion County CVB.
The project has in-kind support from 33 additional project partners, including 15 county boards, five CVBs, three county economic development authorities, five county parks and recreation boards, four state parks, West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and Law School, and 14 trail organizations across the project area.
This award is part of a package of $ 46.4 million supporting 57 projects in 184 coal-affected countries as part of the POWER initiative (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization ) of the CRA. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mines, coal-fired power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.
Friends of the Cheat is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit group working to restore a river damaged by a legacy of irresponsible land use practices; preserve the health and integrity of the watershed against future degradation; promote the watershed as a haven of beauty and recreation; and educate the community about our work and the economic, cultural and aesthetic value of drinking water.
FOC has administered large, complex projects funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement, the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the Department of United States Agriculture and the West Virginia Environmental Protection Division.
FOC has worked with over 60 private landowners, private industry, and local, regional, state and federal government agencies. FOC is a two-time West Virginia recipient “Watershed of the year” award and is nationally recognized as a leader in river restoration and recreation.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner and invest to build community capacity and enhance economic growth in the Appalachians.
Since the launch of POWER in 2015, the ARC has invested more than $ 287.8 million in 362 projects in 353 counties affected by coal.