West Virginia University is celebrating the opening of new outdoor recreation trails. (Photo courtesy WVU)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University (WVU) Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative is a few steps closer to delivering trail access within a mile of every home in Morgantown.
This week marks the official opening of the initial three miles for the new West Run Woods Trail System, a purpose-built, multi-use trail project. President Gordon Gee said the new trail system aligns with the collaborative’s mission to tap into the economic and social benefits of the outdoors for the betterment of the entire state.
“Outdoor recreation differentiates our area from other places people could choose to live, study and work,” Gee said.
“West Virginia University’s land-grant purpose is to improve the quality of life in our state, and these projects, fueled by a collaborative community spirit, are important drivers for this region’s future.
“They will help our University attract and retain the best faculty, students, staff and health care professionals. And they will help all of us who live here discover the sense of balance at the heart of a purposeful life.”
The first phase of the West Run Woods Trail System — a project led by Smith’s Richard Edwards — includes the area’s first gravity-flow trail, allowing riders of all ability levels to learn and experience mountain biking in a new way.
What is happening at West Run represents the beginning of a larger WVU trail initiative to improve health opportunities for community members, attract and retain talent, enhance quality of life, and increase tourism while introducing examples of sustainable trail building and research opportunities that will support similar efforts across the state.
The City of Morgantown is also on board with the Smith OEDC’s trail efforts, as they are partnering with Edwards and the International Mountain Biking Association to develop a master plan that aligns with the WVU plan.
Also this week, ground has been broken for a state-of-the-art action sports and bike park complex at Mylan Park. Funded as part of the American Rescue Plan through the Economic Development Administration’s Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation grant program, the facility will be one of the largest of its kind in the eastern U.S.
This world-class, multi-million dollar facility will encompass all ability levels and inclusivity in outdoor sports and act as a host to large-scale cycling events that will result in job creation, boost tourism and be a long-term economic driver for the region.
“The Mylan Park Action Sports and Bike Park Complex furthers our vision to position the site as an intersection of sport, tourism, and community,” says Ron Justice, president of the Mylan Park Foundation Board of Directors.
“We are very thankful for the support of the EDA, WVU, and the Benedum Foundation in our efforts to provide first-class facilities for local, regional, and national visitors to Mylan Park.”
With the future growth of the outdoor community through trails and cycling in mind, Monongalia County Schools, with the generous support of Rad Power Bikes, has added an innovative Project Bike Tech classroom that uses bicycles and mechanics to teach academics, technical and mechanical skills to prepare students to enter the workforce and introduce them to small business operations.
Danny Twilley, assistant vice president of economic, community, and asset development, said the construction is a hallmark fulfilment of the university’s land-grant mission.
“In fulfilling our land-grant mission to serve our community, we are building off the area’s tremendous climbing and whitewater resources by focusing efforts in partnership with the city to reach our goal of providing trail access within a mile of every house in the City of Morgantown,” Twilley said.
“Coupled with Mylan Park’s Action Sports and Bike Park Complex and our youth programming initiatives, WVU and Morgantown are further solidifying the area as one of the premier places to live, work, play, go to school and do business, all in pursuit of an experience-driven lifestyle.”
The celebrations and energy around trails and cycling in Morgantown continue through the week, culminating in “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day” at the West Run Woods Trail on Oct. 1. Kids can participate in free, professional clinics to learn the foundations of mountain biking or more intermediate-level jumping and pumping sessions, along with lessons in trail building and much more.