Decades marked by dreams and tentative plans will see on of those dreams fulfilled Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Wolf Creek Park.
The ceremony, set for 9 a.m., will be hosted by the Fayette County Urban Renewal Authority and will celebrate the official opening of Wolf Creek Trails.
“This project has been made possible through the partnerships and contributions of the (Fayette County Trails Coalition), New River Gorge Trails Alliance, the Fayette County Resource Coordinator’s Office and the Fayette County Commission,” Fayette County Resource Coordinator Gabriel Peña said in a press release Friday.
“The development of these single-track hiking, running, and biking trails represent more than a new recreation opportunity alone – they are the beginning of a concerted grassroots effort to diversify the local economy,” he said.
“By increasing access to the natural assets and beauty of Fayette County, we increase opportunities to attract outdoor industry entrepreneurs and those businesses with employees that value an active outdoor lifestyle.”
The development of a trail system has long been a dream of Fayette County leaders, being mentioned as far back as the county’s 2001 Comprehensive Plan.
In Chapter 7 of the plan, developed under the leadership of the county commission, then comprised of the late John Witt, along with John H. Lopez and Matthew Wender, called for further trail development as well as more tourism-related opportunities.
“More initiatives, like biking, hiking, and rock climbing should be developed and supported in the district. The objective is to encourage tourists to spend more time and money in Fayette County,” the comprehensive plan reads, along with “The county should examine the feasibility of developing trails in the district.”
Along with input from the county’s citizens, the comprehensive plan was created by the county commission along with then-members of the Fayette County Planning Commission (Guy Dooley, Al Gannon, Sherman Bobbitt, Leon Cooper and Gene Kistler) and the Fayette County Transition Team (Melba White, Kathy Hoffman, Ken Eskew, Bruce Novak, Bud Hill, Zoning Officer Tim Richardson, Keith Richardson of the Zoning Office, John Hoffman of the Board of Zoning Appeals and Dave Pollard, the county’s first resource coordinator) under the advisement of Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, LLC of Charleston.
The dreams of those former visionaries will get a significant boost Saturday with the completion of the Wolf Creek Trails. Although the county commission’s current members Denise Scalph, John Brenemen and Tom Louisos Jr. have been actively working on plotting a trail system for the entire county with the help of local recreation leaders, a majority of the actual work done on creating the 15 miles of trails in Wolf Creek Park has been done by volunteers.
Led by the Mountain State Trail Alliance, formerly the New River Gorge Trail Alliance, scores of volunteers have turned out over the past few years to help build the trails.
“The Wolf Creek Trails are a significant first step in a broader effort that will see trails developed on abandoned rail lines, along county waterways, and in local government-owned properties such as Fayette County Park and Needleseye Park,” Peña said.
“Trail systems like the Wolf Creek Trails are amenities that may be enjoyed by Fayette County residents and visitors alike and are a demonstration of why Fayette County is quickly becoming the East Coast destination for outdoor recreation.”
Bridge Brew Works, located in Wolf Creek Park since 2010, has also played a big role in supporting those doing the trail building work, hosting pot lucks after a long day of work, providing refreshments and more.
It’s to Bridge Brew Works that many of the early riders on the trails retire after a trip over the trails. And the trails have already seen lots of action, although they will officially open on Saturday.
“The trails are already seeing a great deal of traffic,” Peña said. “If there was any doubt of their value, we now know we are on the right track. Fayette County residents want more trails and as we work to build outdoor recreation opportunities, more people will come here to live, work, and play.”
“Live, learn, work, play” has long been the motto and the design for Wolf Creek Park. A master plan for the park was created in 2006.
“In 2006, Fayette County’s economic redevelopment organization, the Urban Renewal Authority (FCURA), purchased Wolf Creek Park (WCP), a 1,064-acre site between Fayetteville and Oak Hill, to develop a mixed-use residential and commercial project unparalleled in the State of West Virginia,” according to the park’s website at wolfcreekpark.com.
“The property was seen as an opportunity for Fayette County to address many of the area’s immediate needs and serve as a model of sustainable development for the state. A ‘live, learn, work, play’ community, the WCP vision emphasizes environmental stewardship, quality housing and business innovation.
“A key aspect of the ambitious project is that the FCURA rezoned the site as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows the county and developers more flexibility to negotiate land use terms instead of being restricted by conventional zoning. This will help attract like-minded developers that share the entrepreneurial spirit and lively outdoor character that embody the New River Gorge region. Fayette County is a unique place, and WCP should be too,” the website reads.
As a key part of the “play” element, Saturday’s ribbon-cutting will fulfill some of those longtime goals.
The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. with the ribbon-cutting at the Guy Dooley Trailhead parking lot just off the Nick Rahall Greenway at the park.
In consideration of Covid-19, masks are required and social distancing will be observed.
At 11 a.m., a scavenger hunt is planned. Small pumpkins will be scattered in and around the trails. Participants can collect as many as they can find, and each pumpkin may be used to redeem a prize.
A second scavenger hunt for prize redemption will be held at 4 p.m. as well as trick or treating.
Fayette County Resource Coordinator’s Office (RCO)
The Fayette County Resource Coordinator’s Office, an office of the Fayette County Commission, serves as the community development department for the county. The RCO facilitates community engagement, economic opportunity, and effective government by initiating and managing projects in collaboration with local businesses, organizations and elected officials. For more, visit https://fayettecounty.wv.gov/departments/RCO/
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