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Local residents gather for the first hiking event of the series Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Upshur County Trails system in the Upshur County Recreational Park. (Photos by Lily Hicks)

Winter Hiking Series explores Upshur County Trails system, aims to unite outdoor nature enthusiasts

TENNERTON – Nature enthusiasts and community members are coming together for a Winter Hiking Series at the Upshur County Trails system at the Upshur County Recreational Park.

Organized collaboratively by the Buckhannon River Watershed Association, Upshur County Trails, Active Southern WV and Try This WV, the series aims to foster community engagement, appreciation for nature and exploration of the extensive trail network.

AmeriCorps VISTA member Jessica Bryzek – who provides support to local watershed groups like the Buckhannon River Watershed Association and Buckhannon River Paddlers – is assisting in leading the initiative. She said the Winter Hiking Series is part of her continued “effort and commitment to improving community outreach and involvement in nature.”

“Rachel Weber, a volunteer with Upshur County Trails, played a pivotal role in creating the trail network, showcasing the dedication of local volunteers in building a vast network of well-marked trails suitable for hiking, running, and mountain biking,” Brysek said at the first event this past Saturday, Dec. 9.

The Winter Hiking Series, consisting of four events, kicked off on December 9 at 10 a.m. and will continue January 13, February 10 and March 9.

“The hikes cover various trails within the complex, ranging from beginner-friendly routes spanning one-and-a-half to three miles,” Bryzek said.

“We’re hoping to create a space for people who like nature and the environment to come share time together, and just share resources with each other and essentially just help build a community of people that love nature,” she added.

Bryzek also shared that she has assisted in community outreach in many arenas, from community paddling with the Buckhannon River Paddlers to these winter hikes.

“The response to the community outreach efforts has been positive, with 10 to 20 participants typically attending events since July,” she said. “Attendees have come from various locations, including Martinsburg, Hurricane, Pittsburgh, Morgantown, and the local community, creating a diverse and engaged group.”

Reflecting on the increased interest in outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryzek noted, “COVID was an interesting time; it helped people have a greater awareness of the value of being able to slow down and become more mindful about their experiences and connection with nature.”

The ongoing community outreach includes posting updates about nature and outdoor events on a Facebook group called “Buckhannon River Paddlers,” where enthusiasts can connect, share experiences and stay updated on upcoming events.

Bryzek emphasized the group’s openness.

“It’s open to anybody, just people who love the Buckhannon River and nature,” she said.

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