By Lyra Bordelon
A joyous $1.8 million grant for the Meadow River Rail Trail was the highlight of the Tuesday, January 26, Greenbrier County Commission meeting.
Project coordinator Matt Ford explained the project would have to be “reworded” after he received a letter from the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation, part of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on January 21.
“Our grant application for over $1.8 million has been approved and signed off by the governor,” said Ford. “[The final] approval asks questions, and the specific dollar amount may change, [but it would be] a significant injection of funds into that project.”
Although Ford was initially speaking before the commission to utilize Department of Highways funds to do design work for a smaller part of the trail, the new infusion of funds will allow for a larger look at the Phase 3 section of the project, which begins in Rainelle and continues downriver.
“The agenda item was a grant the county received in 2018 to design a two-mile section of the Meadow River Rail Trail. … The agreement is being tabled for now because I have an agreement for other sources of funds. … [The DEP grant] was written to complete the 6.4 mile phase three. At the time we wrote the application that’s all we thought we needed. That assumption has changed as we went through the process. I feel like, if we make the execution of this grant efficient, we can get much more than 6.4 miles out of $1.8 million. I talked to the DEP and they’re fine with that.”
In addition, Ford hopes the DOH funds originally meant for this section of the project can be reallocated to the Phase 1, around 16-mile-long section of the trail “started a decade ago.” This stretch of the project is complete with the exception of bridges. The funds could complete and open this section of the project.
“Let’s design and replace the bridges we need to fix, that way we can open up the trail to Rainelle and get this wrapped up,” Ford said. “ … It’s great news, we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel to get the project done.”
Ford noted a grant match would be required, but did not know exactly what would be needed yet.
“This is absolutely great news and Matt, we could not have done it without your diligence. It is greatly appreciated,” said Commissioner Tammy Shiflett-Tincher.
In addition to the trail funds, the commission approved a no-money-down agreement with the Mountain State Trail Authority to include Greenbrier County’s trails in the expanding organization. Although the agreement will eventually require a financial commitment, estimated around $12,000, the organization aims to mimic the Hatfield and McCoy trail project “For the health and well being of our citizens and for economic development.”
“I’m very excited about this – a great day full of wonderful information for the Meadow River Valley,” Tincher said.
In other business:
Two Community Development Block Grants were considered – the commission approved the application for broadband expansion into Quinwood, but pushed the Clintonville water extension to the next meeting, allowing for more work on the application.
A total of $2,200 was approved for Howards Creek Dam – The commission entered into an agreement with the Greenbrier Valley Conservation District years before in order to better maintain the dam.
Of about $70,000 in Arts and Recreation allocations, approximately $36,000 went to the Greenbrier County Sportsplex, including $5,600 for inspections and $30,934.43 for hydroseeding and ground stabilization. Commission President Lowell Rose explained “That’s the inspection and monitoring that we have to do after every rain, as required by the DEP. The second one … is the last work that was done before we had a winter shut down. That catches everything up to date.” The money was approved in a two-one vote, with Tincher voting against.