Rail-Trail Conservancy

Morgantown Dominion Post
11 April 2014

Agreement starts with a single step

Rail-trail conservancy, area residents should meet to allay concerns about development

Some may be thinking, never the twain shall meet. That expression describes when two things or people are so different that they can never exist together or agree with each other. Next week, at a meeting of the West Run Planning District’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), it might even be said. Or more to the point, never the trail shall meet. An initiative by the Mon River Trails Conservancy (MRTC) to create a trail head at a 2.8 acre site on Van Voorhis Road once looked to be a walk in the park. However, it now appears a number of nearby property owners are not in step with this plan. MRTC’s plan calls for a large gravel parking lot, a path to a ramp on the Monongahela River for non-motorized boats and a non-plumbed toilet facility. A nearby small, existing paved parking lot will be striped, and include designated spaces for handicapped use. The county planner has recommended approval of a conditional use permit for this plan, which is required to build a parking lot without a business.

We recommend the West Run Planning District’s BZA grant this permit. Some residents favor the trail and the trail head’s parking lot, but no development of any other amenities at that site, including a restroom. Other residents are none too happy with the trail, period. One home owner in this area recently said, “I’ll tell you the truth, I’d rather have the train back.” Apparently, a host of residents plan to take issue with some or all aspects of developing this trail head at the BZA’s meeting Wednesday. In the interim, the MRTC should reach out to these residents and heed their concerns one step at a time. Perhaps, approach the Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department about adding regular patrols of this trail head. Then provide these residents with contact information to reach MRTC leaders. Promise additional signage at the trail head about the ground rules for parking there and using its facilities. If possible, provide some lighting at this trail head, too. The concerns of these residents about this trail head and the rail trail, in general, are valid and are nothing new in residential areas. Development in anyone’s backyard is rarely met with open arms. However, if developers —MRTC, in this instance — work through nearby residents’ concerns, most differences can often be readily resolved. The network of rail-trails in our county has been a blessing and a boon to recreational opportunities, and economic ones, as well. Maybe it would be better said to never say never the twain shall meet on this trail.