The Buckhannon River at sunset. (Brian Bergstrom / My Buckhannon)

Community feedback sought for Buckhannon and Tygart Valley Water Trail proposal

BUCKHANNON—The Buckhannon Watershed Association is asking the community to participate in a public comment period to help it achieve an official water trail designation for a 45-mile section of the Buckhannon and Tygart Valley rivers.

The mostly flat-water, family-friendly trail under consideration stretches from Sago in Upshur County to the Arden community in Barbour County.

Becoming a water trail will attract more visitors to the region, boosting the local economy. More access points along the river will make it easier for locals and visitors to enjoy water activities, and the designation will also help raise awareness about river conservation efforts and encourage stewardship of the waterway.

Chrissy Sandy with the Buckhannon River Watershed Association said the group is looking for feedback on a draft designation of the Buckhannon and Tygart Valley Water Trail through an online survey and in-person meetings. Submitted comments can be made at tinyurl.com/btvwatertrail. In-person comments can made at two meetings: the first in Upshur County on Thursday, July 11, at 6 p.m. at North Buckhannon Park and the second in Barbour County on July 31 at 6 p.m., location to be determined. 

“We are now in the public comment period, which lasts for two months, so we have a copy of the draft designation for the water trail at the library,” Sandy said. “If you want to look at a paper copy, you just have to ask the circulation desk, but we also have it online on our Facebook page. We really want people to know what the water trail is, and if they have any questions, we want to answer them.”

The Buckhannon Watershed Association attended the Feb. 29 Upshur County Commission meeting to explain how the designation would benefit the county and the river.

“We’re super excited to talk about our project for having parts of the Buckhannon River and parts of the Tygart Valley River combine into a 45-mile trail,” said Lisa Gum, the vice chair of the association. “A water trail is a designated body of water that provides recreational, aesthetic, alternative transportation or educational opportunities.”

Sandy said that once the designation is achieved, the trail will help drive tourism to the region. It will also give people better access to the river and open up opportunities to care for the river itself.

“It’s a very lengthy process, so when we do the designation, it opens up doors for other grant funding, which is one reason why we’re doing it,” she said. “We can get more access points to the river and bring tourism and awareness to river conservation. We’re working with the DOH, the DNR, the Tygart Watershed Association and of course the Buckhanon River Watershed Association.”

Once the designation is official, a map will highlight different river access points, hotels and food spots near the trail.

“This is a flat-water trail,” Sandy said. “We’re designating this specific stretch of river because we can only have flat water or class one and two rapids; anything white water cannot be in the trail designation. I can’t even tell you how many times we paddled on multiple different stretches of the river, and it is beautiful. It’s not dangerous in any way, so kids can go paddling. I’ve taken my daughter paddling, and the youth do a great job. There really aren’t any hazards, depending on water conditions — you don’t want to go out there during flooding times.”

For updates or more information on the designation, the Buckhannon Watershed Association Facebook page will provide future updates.

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