The many users of the Greenbrier River Trail recently noticed a new addition at the 9.5 milepoint camping area. A newly constructed shelter now provides a roof over the heads of campers and any other hikers, bikers or horse riders who may desire a break or protection from the weather.
The shelter came about through the funding and labor of local volunteers. Local resident Dale McCutcheon, a strong supporter of the trail, had visited hiking and biking trails throughout the United States over the last 40 years. Besides the grandeur of the trails themselves, something else impressed him greatly. Almost all the trails benefited from a committed, involved group of volunteers who spent countless hours in activities to maintain and enhance their trails of interest. In many cases, it seemed that without these dedicated individuals the trails would have not been nearly as inviting as they were.
Locally, the Greenbrier River Trail Association is an organization that puts a great deal of time and energy toward the welfare of this incredible asset. There is also a group of volunteers who are involved in support activities such as cleanup of downed trees and work projects that keep the trail in its best condition. With the loss of a shelter during the June 2015 flood the Greenbrier River Trail was without such an asset for an extended length of time.
With this in mind, McCutcheon and a close friend decided to fund a shelter near the lower end. Besides accommodating campers and trail users wanting to take a break, the shelter could be a safe haven in the event of inclement weather. McCutcheon had talked with others who, like himself, had experienced sudden thunderstorms, and even hailstorms, while using this section of the trail, A shelter might even save a life in a situation involving lightning or possible hypothermia.
Milepost 9.5, which already was a camping site with a tent pad, fire ring and picnic table, was chosen for the location.
McCutcheon forwarded the concept to Jody Spencer, Greenbrier River Trail State Park Superintendent, who has had government oversight of the trail for many years. Spencer, well aware of the inability of state government to provide funding for many desirable projects along the trail, had always been totally supportive of volunteer activities in trail maintenance and enhancement, and welcomed the project. With the approval, McCutcheon set about designing a structure which would accommodate several people while also fitting in aesthetically with the trail environment.
Materials were purchased and many of the components were pre-cut so they could be assembled at the site without the availability of electricity. Thanks to McCutcheon’s planning, hard work, and supervision, and thanks to the enthusiasm of Greenbrier River Trail Volunteers, Jeff Myers, David Poage, Lorrie Sprague, and Nancy Harris, the structure was completed in two days.
Since its completion in early June the new shelter has fulfilled its promise admirably. On separate occasions it has provided protection from thunderstorms for a couple from New York City and a family from Greenbrier County. McCutcheon hopes that this structure will serve as an incentive and invitation for other trail enthusiasts to get involved in a similar manner. He envisions a series of shelters at intervals along the trail constructed through private funding and volunteer efforts. Ironically, the first overnight occupant of the shelter, a hiker from Ohio, upon learning that the shelter was all volunteer, offered to totally fund one.
McCutcheon encourages anyone who wishes to get involved to consider donating toward shelter materials or by financing a complete shelter. Those who wish to donate toward future shelters or wish to help construct on to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.