West Virginia Scenic Trail Association Celebrates 40th Anniversary
This Saturday, the West Virginia Scenic Trail Association will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the Buckskin Council Boy Scout Reservation between Dunmore and Huntersville. I spoke with Doug Wood about the history of the Association and their main project, The Allegheny Trail.
My name is Doug Wood, and this is the West Virginia Scenic Trail Association’s 40th anniversary year, and so this event is a commemoration for the forty years of existence of the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association (WVSTA) and our main project, The Allegheny Trail.
We’re going to have a couple of the original incorporators of the organization there to talk about their dream of the Allegheny Trail and their hopes for the WV Scenic Trail Association over the years. We’re going to have Boy Scout representatives speaking about the long relationship between the WVSTA and the Boy Scouts of America. We’ll also have somebody from state parks talking about the long relationship between the Allegheny Trail and West Virginia State Parks; our trail passes through a number of state parks, and we have done several trail improvement projects like the Seneca Springs Shelter at Seneca State Forest.
And then at the end of the speaking, we are going to take a hike on the very first segment of the Allegheny Trail that was flagged way back in 1973. That was before the organization became the WVSTA. It was just a bunch of people out trying to build a long distance hiking trail, the Allegheny Trail.
The Appalachian Trail was becoming a national scenic trail. In other words, this trail which existed primarily by the hands of volunteers, this long distance hiking trail, the Appalachian Trail, was starting to be codified as a national scenic recreation asset. So there was great interest at that time in outdoor recreation. There was a big push in President Johnson’s administration and Kennedy’s administration before that to try to get people outdoors, and so there happened to be a lot of interest nationally.
And on the local scale, in West Virginia, there was a lot of interest on the part of these early founders of the WVSTA. They met at various places, began to talk this idea up of developing a long distance trail in West Virginia along the same formula as the Appalachian Trail. They met with a number of State Park personnel administrators. They met with Forest Service personnel. They got the forest service to agree to develop a written agreement. So those first organizers were able to convince the US Forest Service in two different regions – this was a very unusual thing. The Forest Service in two different regions signed an agreement at the regional level as well as at the local National Forest level – George Washington National Forest, Jefferson National Forest and Monongahela National Forest – to develop this long distance trail through West Virginia and part of Virginia.
So now today, in 2014, the Allegheny Trail is not completed. Even after all these forty years, we have a gap that will run anywhere between 10-20 miles once it’s completed. There’s been about 310 or 320 miles of the trail developed from the dream time in 1974 until now. So we’ve made great progress. It has been primarily because of volunteer help, but also with partnerships with the Forest Service and with the State Parks and with other entities. We’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people in a lot of agencies, and that’s been a good thing. That’s helped us get to get it as far along as we’ve gotten it.
This event on Saturday is important because it will allow local folks in the Pocahontas County area to come out and hear the history of the Allegheny Trail and see how important it is to have volunteer efforts working in conjunction with agency partners and local private landowners as well to develop a project of this magnitude.
It’s become a real important asset to West Virginia’s trail network system, and we think it helps people who come to West Virginia to enjoy the outdoors.
The West Virginia Scenic Trail Association’s 40th anniversary event will be Saturday, July 26 starting at 1pm at the Buckskin Council Boy Scout Reservation.