Greenbrier River Trail makes Hall of Fame
Marlinton, WV – In May, the National Rails To Trails Conservancy elected the Greenbrier River Trail to the National Rail Trail Hall of Fame. In making their selection, the Conservancy considered scenic value, volume of use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, management and maintenance, community connections, and geographic distribution.
Saturday morning, Conservancy members and state and local officials held an induction ceremony on the Greenbrier River Trail in Marlinton. A large number of trail users arrived, appropriately, on bicycles. Pocahontas County Historical Society treasurer and author of “The Durbin Route,” Bill McNeel, gave a short lecture on the history of the rail line that ran through Marlinton and its subsequent conversion to recreational purposes. Trail superintendant Jody Spencer talked about the importance of the trail to the West Virginia park system and the many uses it enjoys now.
Robert Beanblossom, district administrator with the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, talks about the importance of the award.
“The Greenbrier River Trail received a very prestigious award,” he said. “The National Rails To Trails Conservancy inducted the Greenbrier River Trail into its Hall of Fame. It’s only the twenty-sixth trail, out of 17,000 rail trails in the United States, that have been so honored. This will surely be good publicity for us. Not only within the State of West Virginia, but we do and will receive various recognition on their national website.”
The Greenbrier River Trail also will be featured in the Conservancy’s monthly Rails to Trail magazine. The 80-mile trail, which stretches from Caldwell to Cass, was recently lengthened.
“Just recently, through the efforts of Superintendant Jody Spencer and Superintendant Rob Sovine, at Cass, we extended the trail three-quarters-of-a-mile into Cass,” Beanblossom said. “This is very significant, because now, cottage guests can now access the trail without getting on Route 66 or driving down to the trailhead at Slabtown. They can merely walk out their door and down to Front Street and get on the trail.”
Spencer says it’s difficult to estimate how many people use the trail, but that high tech methods were used to get a number.
“A couple years back, we tried to get some estimates,” he said. “So, we put some infrared trail counters out at different locations; recorded those numbers and moved them. Through that one whole year of trial and error, we estimated there’s about 100,000 people a year using the entire length of the Greenbrer River Trail.”
Spencer says a Marshall University study showed that the rail trail pays for itself in just two weeks of the year.
“About a decade ago, Marshall University did do a seven-day study on the trail,” he said. “They interviewed everyone they come in contact with, during that time period, and asked them how much money they’re spending on the trail and on their visit. It was determined that within that one or one-and-a-half week period – however many days they actually researched it – that almost $90,000 was pumped into the local economy by just those trail users, on just those trips.”
“So, basically, what that tells us is that two or three weeks worth of people coming, basically, pays for the whole annual budget of the Greenbrier River Trail.”
Based on the Marshall study numbers from 10 years ago, trail users add more than $1 million to the local economy of Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties in just the summer months June through August, over and above trail maintenance costs.
Spencer says the experience will only get better for trail users.
“We’ve got 16 campsites now, just designated for the Greenbrier River Trail,” he said. “We’ve put countless numbers of paths and steps and trails down to the river, so that you can fish or swim. We’ve got, probably, 50 to 60 picnic tables now out along the trail, so you can stop by or you can hike up for a picnic or walk up for a picnic. So, increasingly, we try to develop the facilities along the trail, more and more. One of the latest things we’re kind of getting into is putting out some shelters. We have some three-sided Adirondack-style camping shelters and they’ve been really well-received. They get a lot of high use. So, I think that’s something we’re going to look at doing a little more of here in the future.”
For a Greenbrier River Trail map and highlight descriptions, see the state park website at wvstateparks.com or call the Pocahontas County CVB at 304-799-4636 and they’ll send you one.