Seeking revenues in the right streams

Tourism, Recreation Dollars Constantly Flowing Right Past Us in our Waterways

Morgantown Dominion Post Editorial
31 December 2012

The buzz about the fiscal cliff is starting to sound like the roar of a fiscal waterfall.

Both major political parties have never needed advice on spending public funds. The only difference between them is that some members of one or the other might feel guilty about it. But whether the impact of such spending results in a trickle-down effect or a rising tide floating all boats, revenue streams often are left to meander in still waters.

That’s until either public support or private entreaties convince governments that a source of untapped revenue may be flowing right by their eyes.

One example of a source for such potential revenue in our region is the waterways. Though most rivers are no longer commercially booming, they’re still a constant source of tourism and recreation dollars.

This month, the Monongalia County Commission deeded a 3-acre site to the Mon River Trails Conservancy (MRTC). It will primarily be used as a trail head with parking for Caperton Trail users and a slide for putting smaller boats into the Monongahela River.

No, this move will not be a boon to Star City or the greater Morgantown area’s tax or business revenues. However, our region’s network of rail trails and providing for boaters’ access to the river have been.

Scheduled events such as 5K runs and bass tournaments have been vital to development and growth, adding to the attraction these trails and waterways have for newcomers relocating here.

Another initiative that holds out such potential is a project to market the Cheat River as a water trail for boaters of all abilities. The idea is to develop 11 access sites along the Cheat in both Preston and Tucker counties, so boaters, fishermen, kayakers and others know where they can easily enter and exit the river.

However, so far the group piloting this project — the Friends of the Cheat (FOC) — has yet to meet any big wave of support.

The Preston County Commission has passed a resolution to support the designation of the Cheat River as a water trail system. And the Greater Morgantown Visitors and Convention Bureau awarded the group a $5,000 grant to promote the project. But neither county has committed any money to the project, and the state’s designation for this idea has yet to surface.

Still, FOC remains undaunted and is continuing to pursue plans for this project.

Will tourism and recreation ever be a suitable substitute for the loss of jobs and severance taxes from extraction industries? Probably not.

Yet, rail trails and water trails can still help blaze a path to balancing budgets in the future.