Connectivity is at the Heart of a New Trail Project:
The Heart of the Highlands Trail System
The Heart of the Highlands Trail System is a new concept for trails in Tucker County. This project will connect the non-motorized trail systems of five land management agencies in Tucker County, West Virginia into a comprehensive, landscape oriented, environmentally sustainable, multi-use trail system that is accessible to the public. This trail system will combine recreational trails with alternative transportation routes within Tucker County and will further enhance the area's recreation and economic possibilities. The long-term goal is to connect the Heart of the Highlands Trail System to the surrounding regional and national recreational trail systems.
The first phase of the Heart of the Highlands Trail System is a 23-mile core loop that will connect the partner properties: Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley Institute, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Canaan Valley State Park, Monongahela National Forest, and National Youth Science Foundation. Connecting trails will be established and existing trails improved to link the public lands in and around Canaan Valley to each other and to the Town of Davis. About half of this 23-mile core loop trail is already on the ground as existing trails.
New trail construction was initiated in fall 2010 and is directed by the Heart of the Highlands Board of Directors including representatives from partner properties, Tucker County Trails, and community members. A project administrator was hired in 2011. Initial funding has been awarded through the West Virginia Division of Highways Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP) to build the connections from Davis through Canaan Valley Institute and National Youth Science Foundation properties and on through Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge to Cortland Road. Additional RTP funding and Title II Secure Rural Schools funding through the United State Forest Service has been awarded to perform maintenance and improve sections on the Monongahela National Forest Canaan Mountain area. A grant agreement has been secured with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to provide additional project funding.
The "Splash Dam South Segment" is the first new segment of the Heart of the Highlands Trail to be constructed. This trail will follow the south side of the Blackwater River from Route 32, near Davis, upstream to connect with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Though a final route has not been determined, the Refuge will be building a new trail to link the trails on these properties and provide access into the heart of Canaan Valley. While many organizations and agencies are partnering to make the trail system a success, the volunteers in the community have made a huge impact in the labor needed to build trails.
Tucker County Trails, a Heart of the Highlands partner, is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to the service, access, and promotion of trails for the health and well-being of Tucker County. They serve a crucial role in the area by organizing work days for trail construction and maintenance. On a recent Sunday morning following the Canaan Mountain Bike Festival about 20 folks showed up for a volunteer work day on the Splash Dam South segment to construct a bridge across Devils Run and additionally complete a nice section of trail that followed it with a few rock bridges, bench cutting, and raking. The show of force was great and Ken Dzaack, land manager at Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) where the work site was for this day, was very pleased with the progress. "I would have been ecstatic just to get the bridge in place today, so all the extra work is a real bonus," Dzaack said.
This 3.1 mile trail is a key connector for the Heart of the Highlands Trail System 23-mile Core Loop. It will provide uninterrupted access from Blackwater Falls State Park's River Road Trail near the Town of Davis, through Canaan Valley Institute and National Youth Science Foundation properties on the south side of the Blackwater River and onto Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge property. When the Camp 70 Bridge is replaced later this fall, the Splash Dam South Trail will provide trail linking choices on CVI's trail system and on the Refuge's Brown Mountain trail network.
The Heart of the Highlands Trail System board of directors is excited to see Tucker County Trails and the mountain biking community giving so generously of their time and talents to these volunteer trail building work days.