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Buckhannon Riverwalk Trail
Flowers on the Buckhannon River Walk Trail

Groundwork laid for Riverwalk to connect Marion Street south to high school

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon is taking steps to extend the Riverwalk Trail south into Tennerton so residents have more pedestrian-friendly steps to take in the city and county.

Buckhannon City Council last week approved submitting an application for a West Virginia Division of Highways’ Transportation Alternatives Recreational Trails grant that, if obtained, lays the groundwork for extending the Elizabeth J. ‘Binky’ Poundstone Riverwalk Trail from Moore Avenue to Buckhannon-Upshur High School and the Upshur County Recreational Park area.

At council’s meeting Thursday, May 20, City of Buckhannon Public Works Director Jerry Arnold explained the application for a $100,000 grant would be used solely to obtain the necessary rights-of-way to extend the trail to the high school, enabling people to walk, bike and run further.

The approximate three-mile-long paved walkway current ends at Marion Street.

“This grant is for rights-of-way to extend the Riverwalk to the high school, and the preliminary budget number is $100,000 (in grant money), and it’s a 20 percent match, so we would be responsible for contributing 20 percent of that match — $20,000 – up front,” Arnold told council. “This is solely for rights-of-way with the thought that the following year, we’ll submit a grant for design and construction on that.”

Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the application, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh prior to passing unanimously.

The Upshur County Commission is set to consider approving sending a letter in support of the city’s grant application to the DOH at its May 27 meeting.

Arnold said Tuesday that applying for the grant is the first step in achieving a long-held community-wide goal of transforming the city and county into a place that’s more pedestrian-friendly and safer for recreation and exercise.

“It’s always been the dream to go all the way to the high school,” he said. “We want to make it a more pedestrian-friendly community. We shouldn’t have to be dependent on vehicles to get everywhere we want to go.”

However, the next planned section of the Riverwalk will connect the Riverwalk from its current end at Marion Street to Moore Avenue. Arnold said the city has already secured a DOH grant that will pay for the design phase of that portion.

“That section has already been designed with lighting, and we are actually waiting for the DOH to give us the go-ahead on that,” Arnold said. “It goes along the railroad tracks up so far and then at the (City of Buckhannon’s) Water Treatment plant it comes out on Wood Street and go to Morton Avenue.”

City engineer Jay Hollen designed that stretch of the future Riverwalk, and city employees themselves will actually construct the walkway.

“After that, the next logical next step is start on toward the high school and connect it to the trails out there,” Arnold said. “It will be probably a joint effort on securing grants. We’ve had some conversations with the county as well since this section of trail is in the county, connecting into the county and the Upshur County park trails.”

“The county seemed eager to partner with us on some projects, and this is a perfect one for us to collaborate on,” he added.

During its May 20 meeting, council also unanimously approved a second application to the DOH that, if secured, would fund design and engineering work for sidewalks along Morton Avenue from First Street to Locust Street and on Locust Street (or Route 20) from the Walmart/Crossroads intersection to the Lowe’s area.

The grant to build those sidewalks is $75,000, and if the city is successful, it would be required to contribute $15,000 in matching funds.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said Morton Avenue and Locust Street sidewalks are eligible for state grant funding because they qualify as state routes.

“The DOH is involved because Morton Avenue technically considered a state route through our community, and, of course Route 20 is, so the DOH has this matching program,” Skinner explained. “It’s not available everywhere in town because not everywhere touches a state highway, but Morton Avenue is one as is Locust Street/Route 20, so that’s how we’re able to work through this.”

Prior to adjourning, council also:

  • Unanimously approved the second of three readings of Ordinance 451, which lays out an increase in water rates and charges for city residents and Public Service Districts. A public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at council’s next regular meeting Thursday, June 3 in city hall.
  • Heard a report from Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory that indicated the police department had received high marks following its on-site assessment for accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA. Gregory said a final decision will be issued in July, but the assessment team had given the city “very good marks” and had found no compliance issues. “That was something we had gleaned from the exit interview when the assessment occurred, but in that final report, that was reflected in writing,” Gregory told council. The 40-plus-page report is available for review at city hall and the Public Safety Complex on Florida Street.

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