Learn from trail-building experts this season while contributing to the robust trail network that’s in the pipeline for Morgantown.
An ambitious trail-building project in Morgantown continues moving forward this spring, with big results for everyone starting this fall.
“We took a hiatus on construction over the winter and focused on planning and design,” says Richard Edwards, outdoor recreation infrastructure coordinator for WVU’s Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. “Now that the green is back and stuff is drying out, we’re focusing on volunteer work and construction.”
The year since Edwards started at the Smith OEDC last spring has been filled with deep foundational work to raise Morgantown up as a trails town. Some of that work is easy to guess at—identifying potential trail sites, partnering with property owners, submitting grants, training crew leaders. Some of it is simply figuring out what types of trail construction work in our terrain.
“I continue to be surprised at just how wet Morgantown is,” says Edwards, who’s built trails across the U.S. and internationally over the past two decades. “We’ve tried a variety of techniques to see what works best on the soils in Morgantown, and we’ve settled in on a couple of them—so I’ve been impressed by how wet Morgantown is, but I’ve been even more impressed by how dry and ride-able the new trails we’re building are.”
That kind of expert trial and error takes time, but now it’s part of the local knowledge base that will support a pipeline of dozens of miles of new trails over the coming several years. “We haven’t been rushing to get new trails open,” Edwards says. “We’re focusing more on getting the process in place so, as stuff ramps up, we’ve got that capacity.”
The volunteer energy in Morgantown is high, he says, and he’s excited to see people using techniques today that they weren’t using a year ago. He names “stone pitching” as an example, a type of rock armoring in which rocks are set vertically into the ground instead of horizontally. “It does a better job of allowing water from seeps to flow through and under the trail tread rather than over the top,” he says. “People are now doing this independently—they’ve learned how to use this and other techniques and tools.”
Work this season will focus primarily on several miles of new trails at West Run. Grading and cut-in are done, and the volunteer finishing work will prepare the trails for a grand opening in the fall. With much more soon to follow: “We’ve been doing planning and design across 10 locations in the city of Morgantown, at WVU, and on other partners’ property,” Edwards says, “and that’s all in preparation for getting those trails ready to start building in the next 18 months.”
The Smith OEDC is based in Morgantown, but it’s a statewide program, and exciting trail work is happening all across the state. “We’re currently assisting nine other communities around the state,” Edwards says. “Projects are on track to be awarded nearly $10 million in funds for trail development in Morgantown and elsewhere, and those communities should own those wins—we gave advice and technical support, but they’re succeeding because they’ve got dedicated people making great outdoor recreation happen.”
To be part of the growing trail-building energy and expertise in Morgantown, visit iServe and search for “trail building.” Sessions are currently scheduled to take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays—and if you’ve got a group of six or more that needs a different time, contact the coordinator.