MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The first North-Central West Virginia Outdoors Community Meetup was attended by more than 100 people on Wednesday at the Morgantown Ascend WV Basecamp on University Avenue.

The event was hosted by the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Collaborative at West Virginia University (WVU).

Staff engineer for the city of Morgantown, Drew Gatlin, talked about three pending trail projects in the area. The three projects included the Flegal Reservoir, White Park South, and the Action Park at Marilla/Valley Crossing.

The Flegal Reservoir project includes three miles of trails, at least one bridge, and a kayak launch to be partially funded with $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds. The project is a collaboration with Morgantown, WVU, the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB), and BOPARC that entered the planning stage in 2022.

“This is going to be built ASAP; we just had bridge engineers out there Monday looking at our crossings,” Gatlin said. “We’re looking at three miles of trail, and we’re going out for bid in December.”

The White Park South project is being done at the former site of one of the largest oil tank farms in the 1880s. This project will improve about 1.5 miles of trails while actually completing the environmental cleanup simultaneously. The project will be funded with $500,000 from the EPA.

“We know we need more trails in White Park, and we know we need to rebuild the trail system out at White Park with the actual clean-up technique, so trail construction is a clean-up technique.” Gatlin said.

WVU now offers a Sustainable Trails Development Graduate Certificate and Trail Stewardship program. The programs teach design and maintenance and is designed to grow more trail experts here in the Mountain State to further the outdoor economy.

“We want to establish Morgantown and WVU as hubs for trail education and trail research,” Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Coordinator for the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, Richard Edwards, said. “This is the kind of place that kids growing up in New England would say—I want to go to WVU so I can learn about modern trails because I want to be a trail manager.”

Director of outdoor development for the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, Andy Williamson, said they plan to invest in helping communities with expertise and bring a trail expert to Morgantown. He said they’ll help train communities on how to create, maintain, and operate world-class trails in West Virginia.

“It’s about growing our outdoor economy and leveraging our national partners and their expertise and lessons learned on how to create a support system to help outdoor businesses start, grow, and thrive right here in West Virginia.”

In the coming weeks, enthusiasts will have an interactive online map where comments can be left or users can look at the trail system. Comments that are left on the site will be reviewed and could even be incorporated into the future design.

“Within the month, if not sooner, we will have a story map up,” Edwards said. “A web-based map where you can zoom around and look at all the different zones, be able to make comments and suggestions, and look at some of the opportunities.