Recent reports in the Charleston Gazette have mentioned that The Greenbrier River Trail as well as other state parks will suffer budget and staffing cuts and even closure if a 6.5 per cent across-the-board cut should come out of the Legislature. This is unacceptable!
Balancing the budget on the backs of state parks is not a new idea, but it is still a bad idea. The Greenbrier River Trail, like all of our state parks, is a significant economic engine in the rural communities it traverses. A December 2015 study of the economic effects of West Virginia State Parks shows the Greenbrier River Trail bringing in $3.1 million in income to the surrounding communities. This number increases to $4.3 million when the study includes spending by local citizens!
West Virginia’s State Parks, in addition to being an economic engine for local businesses, are a refuge for our people, and in the case of the 80-mile-long Greenbrier River Trail, it is used daily by hundreds of our taxpaying citizens for recreation, health and well-being. It encourages families to get outdoors and enjoy the Greenbrier River together.
The Greenbrier River Trail Association is a nonprofit group which has been in existence for over 35 years to promote the trail. The trail was just named the best trail in the region by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine readers. The best – over the Appalachian Trail! Our group has held the popular annual Great Greenbrier River Race for 30 years to showcase the river and trail. We give all the proceeds to match funding for improvements on the trail. We have just spent a major amount of money to buy land for a much-needed new parking lot at the southern terminus of the trail. If this budget cut happens, instead of feeling like partners, we will feel like second class citizens in the eyes of the state!
To add insult to injury for all of our parks, a bill, HB2977, has been introduced to take away mineral leasing proceeds for our public lands from the Division of Natural Resources and give it to the Division of Highways. This money was something Parks might have counted on for budgetary shortfalls like the one barreling down from the Legislature, but not if this bill succeeds!
We encourage everyone who loves our state parks, and especially the Greenbrier River Trail to contact their representatives in Charleston and tell them to fully fund our parks, a true economic boon and a place of refuge for our citizens, keeping the “Wild” in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
Greenbrier River Trail Assoc.