Group to Market Cheat River as a ‘Trail for Boats’ 

Non-whitewater usage would boost economy

Morgantown Dominion Post
23 November 2012
By Michelle Wolford

KINGWOOD — The Cheat River is nationally known as a whitewater destination, but most don’t think of it for more gentle paddling.

Friends of the Cheat’s Cheat River Water Trail committee is trying to change that. The group, formed last year, recently conducted community meetings in Parsons and Rowlesburg to offer information on the proposed “trail for boats.” The Cheat River Water Trail Development Team wants to establish and promote recreational water trails for nonmotorized boats with the idea that such river use will boost the local economy.

“The idea is to develop access points so people know where they can get in and out of the river,” said Aubrey Harris, an Americorps VISTA with Friends of the Cheat. The river, she said, is a schoolhouse without walls. Not only does it provide recreation, but it will boost the local economy, foster environmental stewardship and highlight the historic and cultural features of the river.

Dave Cassell also serves on the Water Trail committee. He said he’s anxious for people to get to know the river and learn about the 11 access points that are being developed between Hendricks in Tucker County and Rowlesburg. The access sites, he said, “are so you can pick and choose how long you want to be on the river.”

Access sites are located on city property, on Division of Highways and Division of Natural Resources sites and on private property. More sites are being sought. Cassell said the committee is actively seeking handicap access areas along the river. The group plans to install kiosks near access sites. They’ll include river maps and a place to post notices.

“The river is really for all abilities,” Cassell said. “It’s suited for everybody.”

Friends of the Cheat Director Amanda Pitzer said the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau has agreed to provide $5,000 to the committee to promote the trail.

Rowlesburg Mayor Margaret Schollar attended the community meeting there.

“This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for anybody who enjoys this type of recreation,” she said. And the promise of tourism is inviting, too.

“It will be good for business,” Cassell said. “When boaters come off the river, they’re hungry.”

Pitzer said the water trail will benefit “older fishermen looking for better access,” offering them “a more gradual gradient that’s more user-friendly.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior recently established the National Water Trails System — a class of recreation trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968. Such a designation acknowledges recreational value, “but also the excellent stewardship of the state, local communities and other partners who maintain their natural beauty and integrity,” according to FOC’s application to the state for designation.

State designation opens the door to grant funding through the Department of Transportation. That money could go toward signage and maps of the water trail, and other means of encouraging tourism. Pitzer said she hopes to have signs up by spring. The group’s draft designation request has been reviewed and accepted by the West Virginia Rail Trail Advisory Board (WVRTAB). A final request for designation is in the works.

Info: http://cheatriverwater