By Sarah Richardson
The Greenbrier River Trail Foundation (GRTF) is seeking the public’s help in raising funds for an extensive project: redecking all 37 bridges along our Greenbrier River Trail. While the GRTF has applied for grant funding to cover the majority of the costs of this project, 20 percent in match funding is required.
The funds will be used to purchase bridge decking materials and associated labor costs to replace worn decking on 37 bridges on the trail. Weather and usage contribute to the deterioration of the wooden planks over time.
“We did get a grant, but it’s going to take a whole lot more funding than that,” said Maggie Hutchison, Chair of the Greenbrier River Trail Association (GRTA). She explained that while many of the bridges spanning the trail have been patched over the years, they have not been renovated since their initial installation. New decking and side railings will help keep the trail safe for public use for many years.
The GRTF and GRTA are both 501(c)(3) organizations, and share the same governance, board structure, officers, bylaws, and mission. Both groups are dedicated to fostering the health and vitality of the Greenbrier River Trail, and meeting the needs of the trail. Both groups work closely with the WV DNR, which manages the trail and oversees trail maintenance. By creating a State Park Foundation, GRTF has adopted the trail which provides access to the WV State Parks Foundation, a network of helpful resources, including the WV State Parks Foundation matching grant funds which can be used for trail improvements.
“We approached the Superintendent of the Trail to ask how we could help, and this was what he said was one of their top priorities,” said Hutchison.
The trail has already gained the first of two planned Transportation Alternative Grants, which are federal monies allotted for a variety of transportation-related endeavors. The first grant totals roughly $764,000, and Hutchison said they plan to apply for a grant of the same financial amount next year. She explained that they are still scoping out the full details of the project to ensure they get exactly what they need to pull off the massive undertaking. However, this means that $150,000 needs to be raised for the financial match on the first grant, and an additional $150,000 will be needed if the second grant is secured in the future.
“We found out on March 24 that we secured this [first] grant, and now we need to start an aggressive fundraising campaign to get those match funds,” Hutchison explained.
Generous sponsors have already committed financially towards the project, including the Seneca Foundation, the Hollowell-Dawkins Foundation, the James F.B. Peyton Foundation, and the WV State Parks Foundation, but the GRTF still needs financial support from the community.
One way that funds are raised for the trail is the Great Greenbrier River Race, held each year at Marlinton by the GRTA. Last weekend, on Apr. 29, more than 300 racers participated in the popular triathlon, which consists of three miles of running down the trail, paddling four miles down the Greenbrier River in a kayak to Buckeye, and then hitting the trail again for the 10-mile biking portion of the event.
Overall, the GRTF has been responsible for approximately $1.5 million of grant funds and donations over the years. That funding has gone toward a variety of projects, including resurfacing the trail in 2021; the repair old shelters; the building of new shelters; installing vault toilets; installing water wells; installing new informational signage (to be completed this summer); flood recovery work to the trail; cleaning, preparing, painting mile markers, shelters, kiosks and bathrooms; and their newest completed project as of Oct. 2022, installing trail to river access steps from the trail down to the river above the Anthony trail access near mile marker 15.
The GRTF has also secured a 5.5 acre tract of land beside Camp Allegheny Road for a new, additional parking lot at Caldwell. They donated the land to the WV DNR, and funding for the lot’s construction came from a variety of grant funding sources.
“We hope that the new parking lot will be completed this summer, hopefully at the same time as the Caldwell portion of the trail reopens when the water project is complete,” said Hutchison. “We estimate around 20 or so more parking spaces, in addition to what we have at the current Caldwell lot.”
To learn more about the Foundation and the Association, or to donate, visit www.greenbrierrivertrail.com. Donations can also be mailed to GRTF, P.O. Box 203, Marlinton, WV 24954.