Rail-Trail Has Changed Life in Our Town

Morgantown Dominion Post
10 March 2013
By Steve Selin

I appreciated the recent Goodwill City (DP-Feb. 7) article about the formation of the Monongahela River Trails Conservancy (MRTC) and the 48 mile rail-trail we enjoy here in our backyard. Twenty years later, the goodwill continues.

In many ways, the trail has transformed life here in Morgantown, turning the Monongahela River into a recreational and economic asset after years of neglect and abuse. The trail has also encouraged healthy, active lifestyles as commuters, families, and lovers have rediscovered their bikes, running shoes, and rollerblades, leaving their cars behind. The trail has also emerged as a catalyst for riverfront revitalization in the downtown area, Wharf District and Star City.

Not that managing a 48-mile linear park is easy! Landslides, downed trees and vandalism are a constant challenge to the unique partnership between MRTC, the city of Morgantown (BOPARC), and the Monongalia County Commission charged with maintaining and enhancing the trail.

Hats off to Ella Belling, the executive director of MRTC, who has provided sustained leadership and vision for the trail. Through Belling’s prolific grant-writing efforts, MRTC and BOPARC recently were awarded more than $200,000 of federal dollars to resurface sections of the Deckers Creek Trail and stabilize part of the trail being undercut by Deckers Creek.

Mark Wise, Director of BOPARC, and the city of Morgantown, also deserves much praise for their stalwart support of the trail. The BOPARC maintenance crew is constantly trimming back the encroaching brush, clearing out culverts, and replacing
gates and benches damaged by vandals. Our daily enjoyment of the trail depends heavily on this maintenance crew. Eldon Callen and the Monongalia County Commission are to be commended on their long-term
support of the trail. Callen’s legal advice for the trail and the commission’s annual support has been invaluable to maintain the trail at a high standard, particularly outside the city limits of Morgantown.

Finally, Mayor Allen Sharp and the community of Star City have demonstrated remarkable vision in realizing the potential of the trail by revitalizing their Riverfront Park and developing the recreational potential of the old Quality Glass site.

Now, you can see that it takes everyone working together to manage a first-class trail system! None of this would be possible without the hundreds of volunteers who turn out to help maintain and enhance the trail. For example, an Eagle Scout project recently added a new weather shelter near Little Fall on the Mon River Trail that now offers trail users a place to rest and shelter from storms.

The future looks bright for the Mon River Trails. Perhaps the most exciting new connection will be the completion of the northern extension of the trail into Pennsylvania. Anyone who’s ridden to Apple Annies for breakfast or their famous cakes and pies knows what I’m talking about!

So, let’s work together to realize the great potential of the Mon River Trails. Become a Mon River Trails Conservancy member and help the rail-trail.

Learn more at our website: montrails.org. Our future success rests squarely on the goodwill of all of us.

Steve Selin is an avid trail user and a MRTC board member. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.