By Peggy Mackenzie
Greenbrier County grant consultant Doug Hylton was on the Greenbrier County Commission’s agenda Tuesday to provide an update on the Meadow River Trail project and to seek approval for funding. “It is the number one trail project in the state,” he said, according to the Division of Highways (DOH), making it number one to be completed. So far, 6.7 miles have been completed.
Funding for projects like this usually require a matching amount from the recipient, which is often a hardship, Hylton said. For example, Fayette County recently had to pass up a $120,000 grant earmarked for the trail because the $20,000 match was not within their reach. To complete the project, the DOH then offered Greenbrier County $750,000 without including a requirement for matching funds, bringing the total cost for the trail to just under $2 million. Hylton said the National Park Service estimates that it costs $100,000 per mile for the creation of a rail trail.
Hylton’s request of the commission for approval of the funding and the contract addendum was, as McClung put it, “a no brainer.”
The Meadow River Trail follows a former CSX spur line built in 1907 that once serviced a lumber company. It includes two trestle bridge crossings over the Meadow River.
A hundred years later in 2008, the trail project began when CSX announced the abandonment of the former rail line. The Fayette and Greenbrier County Commissions stepped in and partnered to establish team leaders to oversee a trail project that would straddle Greenbrier and Fayette counties. As the Greenbrier County Team Leader, Hylton worked with CSX, the DOH, the National Park Service and others to secure the ownership of the property for the two county commissions.
The resultant trail is a planned 16.7-mile pathway that runs along the scenic Class III+ whitewater Meadow River between Rainelle and Nallen. The unpaved trail will be suitable for walking, biking, fishing, and possibly horseback riding. It may one day connect to the Gauley River National Recreation Area at its northern end.
While the trail ends approximately 5.2 miles from Rainelle, Hylton hopes to continue working with CSX to obtain the right of way to bring the trail into Rainelle, making that town an important trail head.
In other business:
As per tradition, at the first commission meeting of the year, a new president of the commission is elected. In a motion by Commissioner Woody Hanna, Commissioner Mike McClung was re-elected as president of the commission.
Other first-of-the-year items included retaining the same twice-monthly meeting schedule, with the first meeting to be held at 10 a.m. and the second one at 7 p.m. The commissioners agreed to retain the same committee assignments as they had last year. They also set the dates for the board of equalization and review, as follows: Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 4 at 1 p.m.; Monday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 11 at 1 p.m.; and Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m.
In a unanimous vote, the commission reversed a decision made last month to amend the Greenbrier County Building Code Administrative Policy Manual, which put an added requirement for larger project building plans to be approved by a certified planning engineer before submitting them to the county. That same vote to rescind was made at the previous meeting, but the vote was void because the item was not on the official agenda.