Julia Kastner, John Weber and Rachel Garton Weber on the Upshur County Trails, located adjacent to B-UHS.

Local residents putting Upshur County Trails on the map

BUCKHANNON – A few local residents are working hard to put Upshur County Trails on the map – literally.

Runner, biker and outdoors enthusiast Rachel Garton Weber recently decided to map the trails that make up the nearly six-mile network of Upshur County Trails in southern Upshur County near Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

She has submitted it for approval to the apps Hiking Project and All Trails, and in the future, people will be able to locate trail maps on both apps.

“We are waiting for editorial review on those,” she said. “The websites and apps are a little slow right now because of staff shortages due to COVID-19.”

“Once we can all gather again, I would like to plan a hiking day,” she said. “Last year on National Trails Day, we sponsored a clean-up day and that was a successful event. I would like to show people the trails, but we obviously have to wait for that.”

However, right now you can practice social distancing by yourself or with family members, whether your go-to activity is running, hiking or biking. Upshur County Trails offers several scenic trails to enjoy, according to Upshur County Trails members, two of whom are, of course, Rachel Weber and her husband, “Jumping John” Weber.

Over the last few months, trail work and beautification measures – including the mapping project – have been completed on the trails, located adjacent to Buckhannon-Upshur High School. The trails encompass nearly six miles and offer many opportunities for folks to get back to nature, enjoy exercise or just get away.

John gave a brief history of the trails, adding that some of the trails near B-UHS have been around for years, saying the B-UHS Cross Country Teams have utilized them before.

“They were never really bike-specific trails, and the trails were not ideal to utilize the landscape,” John said. “J.J. Ford was a longtime Upshur County resident, and he ran cross-country on some of these trails. He went before the Upshur County Commission and the Upshur County Board of Education and asked about using park land and school land, gaining approval in the fall of 2015 to designate the area as Upshur County Trails.”

John said after approval, a group of residents came together to build the trails.

“Today we have more than five miles of trails which snake around the park and school property,” he said. “We have had really good support of the local community, the Upshur County Commission and the City of Buckhannon.”

According to John, more and more people are finding, utilizing, and more importantly, enjoying the trails.

“Lots of people are hiking and biking and enjoying the trails,” he said. “Lots of folks bring their dogs to walk, and this is such a nice resource for the community. There is a nice place to park and then enjoy the miles of trails.”

John said most people enter the Upshur County Trails near the volleyball courts at B-UHS.

“They have been closing the gates at sunset, so another way to enter is at the end zone of the football field,” he said. “People looking to follow the trails should look for the blue blazes that will take them around the trail circuit. There are plenty of places to exit the trails.”

Orange blazes warn folks on the trail of hazards they need to watch out for.

“There might be a rock drop or a steep area,” he said. “There are orange blazes at the bicycle jumps, too. If you encounter an orange blaze, you need to stop and check it out before proceeding and take it slower.”

John said Upshur County Trails maintains a Facebook page.

“There is an entire GoPro post of all the trails,” he said. “People can always fast forward through the video if they get lost to find their way. It is just another resource people can use to find their way around.”

West Virginia Wesleyan College English Professor Julia Kastner said she really has enjoyed biking the Upshur County Trails since her arrival in Buckhannon.

“These trails are way above average for a small town,” Kastner said. “I have lived in a few small places, and this is an excellent resource. I am pleased. These are great trails and the trail work volunteer situation is very impressive.”

When asked what is next for the Upshur County Trails, John said growth of the trails is first on his mind.

“If we could get access to adjoining land, that would be spectacular,” he said. “It is not known if that is possible at this time.”

Another goal is improvement of the existing trails.

“We want to improve the trails and make them as sustainable as possible,” John said. “They need to be able to handle heavy traffic and have improved drainage. We want folks to find the features on the trails interesting, so they come back. We also want the trails to be safe.”

He said one big problem is there is a lot of trash dumped near and on the trails.

“Tires, sheet metal and entire car frames end up dumped here. We try to get as much of that gathered and removed. We clean up the soda bottles and candy bar wrappers that end up on the trail as well,” John said.

Rachel said her goal is to beautify the trails.

“I have a vision, and I want to begin working on it this summer if I can,” Rachel said. “You know how the Earl Core Arboretum in Morgantown has wildflowers? I would like to start off with some small patches of wildflowers here. I want to talk to people who know a little more about wildflowers and begin collecting seeds and rhizomes.”

One project had been planned by the B-UHS biology classes was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, the classes had intended to create some interpretive signs for the Upshur County Trail.

“Hopefully, they will get to complete that project sometime in the future,” Rachel said.

In the future, John said there will be days where folks can come and lend a hand completing trail work.

“That would involve things like digging,” he said. “Recently, we installed three bridges and drainage areas where it was very muddy. Sometimes we need manual labor, and sometimes we have trash pick-up days. The trails require continual maintenance. Those needs will be advertised on our Facebook page.”

John and Rachel both agreed they hope folks will learn more about Upshur County Trails and will come out and utilize the trails for pleasure.

“This is a great place to get out and get away – you can get out on some rugged trails,” he said. “You are out and away but you are never really far from your car.”

Folks wanting to help with the Upshur County Trails or learn more about them are welcome to join the Upshur County Trails Facebook page.

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