The Upshur County Trails Volunteer group is hosting two upcoming workdays – both on Saturdays – on July 24 and Aug. 21. Volunteers run the nearly 7 miles of trails suitable for walking, hiking, mountain biking and trail running and they are counting on users to come out, roll up their sleeves and help with the maintenance and upkeep of the trail system. Everyone is invited to help and additional information about the trails and the workdays is available on their Facebook Page. / File photo by Brian Bergstrom

Upshur County Trails turns area into ‘destination’ for outdoor enthusiasts; volunteer group adds over 260 acres in 2020

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Trails system has grown since its inception, making Upshur County a destination for bikers across the state.

Julia Kastner, a volunteer with the Upshur County Trails Volunteer Group, spoke during a recent Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur virtual meeting to update Rotarians on their progress and future goals for the trails, which are located by Buckhannon-Upshur High School in the Upshur County Recreational Park in Tennerton.

“We now have about seven miles of trails built and several additional miles are flagged and planned for future development,” Kastner said. “These are purpose-built mountain bike trails, so they do have some pretty challenging features, but all trail features also have ride-around lines that are appropriate for beginner riders or for hikers or runners. We do design with all those user groups in mind and not just for more advanced riders.”

While the trails were initially built for mountain bikers, there are several attractions for people to enjoy.

“You can see lots of wildlife, wildflowers, plants, animals, vibrant woodlands, wetlands and lots of different kinds of recreation – mountain bikers, hikers, runners and dog walkers,” Kastner said. “We have recently put in a fairy-and-gnome trail garden, which are little decorated areas that kids and their families have been out there putting together, so that’s been really neat for traffic with our smaller people.”

Several agencies have helped the trails get to where they are now, including the City of Buckhannon, the Upshur County Board of Education, the Upshur County Commission, the Upshur County Parks and Recreation Board and the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The county commission has treated us really well this year,” Kastner said. “We also partnered with the county through the Parks and Rec advisory board for our fundraising efforts. We held three fundraisers — we sold stickers, we sold T-shirts, both of those with the new logo that we designed, and thirdly, we held a virtual event, which is something that’s been happening a lot in the last year, so we had 40-some participants and that was a great fundraiser too, so we had three successful fundraisers in the last year.”

The Upshur County Trails Volunteer Group also managed to secure an additional 261 acres of land for new trails in 2020.

“Last year was a milestone year for us,” Kaster told Rotarians. “After years of discussion and working on this, the city executed a lease with Arch Coal and got us an additional 261 acres of land, so the Arch Coal has leased this land to the city for the purpose of building additional mountain bike trails. We’ve had that property for almost a year. It’s just terribly exciting to have 261 new acres to play with, and we have built about a mile-and-a-half of new trail out there already.”

Those interested in volunteering or helping the group can find them on Facebook.

“The Upshur Countiy Trails Group has a Facebook group, with over 900 members now and counting, so you can find us there,” Kastner said. “For information on public workdays or volunteer opportunities, there’s a ton of pictures and also information on any fundraisers that we do if you want to look to support us.”

Kastner said other people have heard about Upshur County because of these trails.

“We’re starting to be talked about across the state. Mountain bikers across West Virginia are hearing about Upshur County and what a good job we’re doing here. We’re building really high-quality trails, and people are traveling come ride here,” Kastner said. “It’s been really exciting to have such freedom to do this work and to have such good relationships with the agencies who were involved – to work with such a great group of people and to get such good feedback in the form of people traveling here from across the state to ride these trails and see what we’re doing. We’re starting to become a destination.”