The cutting of a ribbon will usher in the rededication — and reopening — of the St. Albans City Park Nature Trail on Friday, Oct. 4.
Featuring a keynote address by St. Albans Mayor Scott James and remarks by St. Albans Parks and Recreation Superintendent Kevin Pennington, the rededication ceremony and ancillary events are scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the one-mile trail.
The events will include live music by That High Country Revival, along with food and other refreshments from area establishments such as the Coal River Coffee Company, Farley’s Famous Hot Dogs and Lil’ Bit of Heaven Cupcakes; a commemorative gift for all attendees; activities geared for children, such as an inflatables room and face painting; sneak peek snippets of the Alban Arts Center’s upcoming production of “Rock of Ages;” and, as might be expected, hikes along the refreshed trail system.
The Nature Trail has undergone $200,000 in repairs, renovations and installations over the past year and a half, subsidized by grants from the West Virginia Department of Transportation and Division of Highways. Upgrades and additions include new benches and bridges, safety rails, signs and the installation of a rest area and water fountain.
Debbie Keener, a retiree with more than 30 years of combined experience with West Virginia State Parks and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, has been a linchpin in the restoration and rebirth of the trail.
“I was a volunteer when I first started working on this project seven years ago,” the St. Albans resident said. “I wrote a grant request to the West Virginia Recreational Trails program that’s through the Department of Transportation and the state Division of Highways.
“It takes a while sometimes to get these things approved and done. Fast forward to six years from then, when we were given approval and our notice to proceed in January 2018. All that time, we were doing the planning of what exactly we were going to We knew we were going to work with in-house labor and not going to hire a contractor. We used Parks and Recreation and volunteer labor,” Keener said.
The elements were not always obliging when trail construction and reconstruction got underway in August 2018, Keener said. “Last year was the wettest year West Virginia has had on record,” she noted. “We were kind of stymied by things we wanted to do, because an area of trail was so very wet it was difficult to do any work.
“We’ve replaced two bridges and completely retreaded the whole trail in the system by either refacing it with stone or completely rebuilding a couple of new sections,” she said. “One new section was very necessary. It was very steep. We recut that and made it a whole lot easier to traverse.
“The trail was first built in 1984. The trail itself had not received a lot of maintenance, aside from general maintenance we’d have to do periodically, like cutting brush and clearing culverts. This was kind of a very large-scale facelift for the entire trail.”
Area businesses have also supported the work, much of it supplied by local volunteers, including Boy and Girl Scouts from throughout the area.
“One of our Eagle Scout candidates put up a really nice, accessible shelter,” Keener said. “Girl Scouts from a local troop have built some resting benches. Some other Boy Scouts, from Troop 146, are helping us set our signs and helping us with our handrails.
“A lot of work community-wide has gone into it, with all of the individual volunteers and groups, in addition to the small staff that the Parks and Recreation Department has. We couldn’t have gotten it done without them.
“We’re pretty happy and excited with the results. It’s going to be a whole lot nicer for folks to come out and enjoy and being in the outdoors and have a little peace and quiet here in the heart of St. Albans,” Keener said.
The trail paths will feature special guests and speakers along the way, such as Doug Wood portraying Kayashota, an 18th century Allegheny Seneca scout and chief who assisted George Washington in his surveys of the area, on Friday.
The WV K-9 Rescue Team will provide a demonstration with its rescue dogs during the event as well.
The St. Albans City Park Nature Trail is used throughout the year for regular and special events, such as guided group hikes, the yearly “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” Spring Nature Hike each April and a Haunted Trail open for terror-inducing tours during the Halloween season in October.
The park and hiking trails are open to the public from daylight to dark daily.
“We like to say it’s St. Albans’ best-kept secret,” Keener said. “When people go through town, they don’t think of this beautiful, quiet trail smack dab in the middle of the city. We invite everybody to come up.”
For further information, call the St. Albans Parks and Recreation office at 304-722-4625.