A scene from the fairy gnome garden that's visible along the Upshur County Trails, which now measures about 8 miles. / Photos by Monica Zalaznik

Try this W.Va., Upshur Trails partner to encourage residents to practice healthy habits, boost community wellness

BUCKHANNON – Try This WV and the Upshur County Trails hope to help everyone in Upshur County stay healthy.

Try This WV invited the community and Upshur County Trails to an informational meeting Aug. 17, where participants learned about Try This WV and the trails. Director of Try This WV Brittney Barlett said they are a statewide nonprofit that has been working to help encourage healthy habits in West Virginia.

“Our overall goal is to knock West Virginia off the worst health list, which unfortunately, we’re at the top of most of them when it comes to [diseases such as] heart disease, diabetes, obesity not just for adults, but for youth as well,” Barlett said. “There are also a lot of barriers in West Virginia that make it harder maybe for us to get healthy as opposed to other states.”

She said the state struggles with high rates of poverty, a lack of transportation and difficulty in reaching healthy food sources.

Brittney Barlett, director of Try This WV, speaks at the informational meeting Aug. 17.

“There’s a huge swath of our state that’s a food desert, so if you’ve never heard that term before, it means there’s no place within about 20 miles to buy fresh produce, so some indicators of those are like, the only place you could get food is at a Family Dollar or the Dollar Store — something like that,” Barlett said. “There are so many barriers to getting healthy in our state, but also that leaves a lot of opportunities because West Virginia is also the state that spends the most time with their neighbors and also volunteers the most out of any other state.”

One of their most recognizable programs is their mini-grants initiative.

“We’ve awarded about 370. I haven’t updated it since our new round in June, but we are somewhere around 370 projects that we’ve awarded since 2014 across the state, and 44 of those have been in these counties here in Central West Virginia,” Barlett said.

Rachel Weber with the Upshur County Trails group said Upshur County’s trail system started in 2015 after a local mountain biker asked the Parks and Recreation board if he could make several trails and his request was approved.

“It really had a lot of support from Upshur County, the City, the mayor, the CVB – everybody has been very positive about us doing these trails,” Weber said.

Rachel Weber with Upshur County Trails speaks at the Aug. 17 informational event.

Since then, a large group of volunteers has created eight miles of trails for hikers, joggers, mountain bikers and anyone else who wants to use them.

“We put in a whole new trail — this machine-filled trail that’s meant to be a little easier for maybe novice mountain bikers, or maybe people that want something a little gentler; it’s not as deep, but wider,” Weber said.

Weber emphasized how supportive each separate entity has been of the trails.

“Our trails are on school property, county property and part of a city lease, so we’ve had real success out here,” Weber said. “Last year, I think we had almost 1,000 volunteer hours on the trails; this year we have not been so good so far, there’s not as much to do.”

The trails and several maps can be found in the Upshur County Recreational Park. One entrance is near the state police station and another can be found near the pavilions.

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