Lisa Gum

Group wants to establish 45-mile ‘water trail’ along Buckhannon and Tygart rivers

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon River Watershed Association asked the Upshur County Commission to support their efforts to establish a water trail along the Buckhannon and Tygart Valley rivers.

Lisa Gum, the vice chair of the association, attended the Feb. 29 commission meeting to present the organization’s plan and explain the benefits of adding a water trail to 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,” Gum said. “A water trail is a designated body of water that provides recreational, aesthetic, alternative transportation or educational opportunities.”

The association found the Buckhannon River would be ideal for a trail due to its gentle, flat water.

“Our vision is to support Upshur and Barbour County communities to recognize the Buckhannon and Tygart rivers as a major natural asset to both residents and visitors to increase tourism to our beautiful area and our beautiful rivers,” Gum said. “Our goal is to develop an official West Virginia State Water Trail on suitable sections of the Buckhannon and Tygart Valley rivers. We hope this established water trail can enhance the recreational opportunities for our residents and increase conservation and appreciation of the river, and then also promote outdoor recreation and tourism for our local economy.”

A water trail is a recreational route on a river that provides scenic recreational educational and historic opportunities. It is primarily flat water, as opposed to whitewater.

“The Buckhannon River has a large stretch of flat water, and if you go on to the Department of Transportation Water Trail website, you can see how our area does not have a flat water trail,” Gum said. “There are trails along the outskirts of West Virginia’s borders, but here in the heart of West Virginia, the Central West Virginia region, we don’t have one.

“We really want to get us on the map, and that designation really does get us on the map, and then we will be included on West Virginia tourism websites all across the internet so people would be directed to our beautiful river.”

The watershed association has already drafted a designation requestion and they hope to unveil the new trail during the annual River Fest celebration in August.

“There are a couple of river hazards which we are looking to provide signage and instructions and maps that would allow safety for people enjoying the river trail,” Gum said. “We have three asks for the Upshur County Commission: one is to support us by signing a resolution that shows support from the local government for the Department of Highways.”

The group also requested a $700 funding allocation to cover expenses, including developing a website.

“We do need some funding for creating a website, because that is a requirement for a water trail designation, and then for signage and mapping,” Gum said. “Our third ask would be for the commission and people in our community to show pride in this project and get excited about it.”

Commissioner Sam Nolte said they would have no problem with the first and last requests, but the funding allocation would have to be determined during budget sessions, when the county decides where to allocate funds to outside entities.

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