An 8-mile-long Blackwater Canyon Loop Trail in Tucker County, a new ATV resort in Boone County and a new wildlife education center at the Forks of Coal State Natural Area in Kanawha County are among projects recommended for funding from this year’s allocation of Abandoned Mine Lands funds.
The grants are drawn from a pool of funds raised through fees on coal sales by active mine operations. The pool is collected by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation (OSMRE) and administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands.
Projects must be located on or near mine sites abandoned prior to the passage of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act in 1977 to qualify for the grants.
The 12 projects receiving grants through the state’s 2020 allocation of $27.2 million in AML Economic Development funds were reviewed and approved earlier this year by a committee of staffers from the DEP, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation and Governor’s Office.
“This is a lot of money and it could really and truly go along way,” Gov. Jim Justice said in announcing the grants. “Hopefully, it will do a lot of great things in the areas where the work will be happening.”
Half of the grants went to projects associated with tourism and recreation, while the other half were awarded to coalfield sewer, water and housing projects. The grants await final approval from OSMRE.
Recommended to receive the grants were:
- Indian Creek ATV Resort at Peytona, Boone County — $3.38 million to bring sewer and water to a new trailhead resort to anchor the Hatfield-McCoy Trails’ planned Coal River Trail system. Developers say the grant will allow the resort to leverage $3.5 million in private investment to build RV and primitive campgrounds, 20 cabins, a playground, bathhouse, ATV storage building and office at the site, located where Indian Creek flows into the Big Coal River.
Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Trails Director Jeff Lusk said plans call for the new resort and the new 60-mile trail system to open simultaneously in 24 months, with a second trailhead in the Madison-Danville area possible at a later date.
- Blackwater Canyon Loop Trail, Tucker County — $818,000 for installation of an acid neutralizing treatment system to improve water quality in the North Fork of the Blackwater River and build an 8-mile hiking and biking trail, creating a scenic connection between the towns of Thomas and Davis. Centerpiece of the trail will be a new pedestrian bridge over the North Fork of the Blackwater at a scenic waterfall in the community of Douglas.
The new trail provides connections to trails in Blackwater Falls State Park and the Monongahela National Forest, and will feature kiosks and interpretive signs explaining the industrial past of the area as it passes the remnants of coke ovens, railroad bridges and the site of a railroad roundhouse. The trail also offers a spectacular view of Blackwater Canyon from Pase Point, as well as Blackwater Falls and Pendleton Lake.
- Claudia L. Workman Wildlife Education Center, Forks of Coal State Natural Area, Kanawha County — $960,000 to cover the cost of exhibits in the new wildlife center taking shape just off Corridor G/U.S. 119 just south of Southridge.
- Twin Hollow Campgrounds and Cabins, Gilbert, Mingo County — $2.7 million to pay for water and sewer service to the mountaintop ATV resort on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails’ Rockhouse Branch system. The grant and the $3.9 million in private investment it is expected to leverage will also help pay for a new 8,000-square-foot restaurant, 32 additional cabins and more campground sites.
- Friends of the Cheat, Kingwood, Preston County — $1 million to continue work on the 8-mile Cheat River Rail Trail from Rowlesburg to the community of Preston near the W.Va. 7 Bridge, where trailhead amenities will be developed.
- Rustic Ravines ATV Resort, Genoa, Wayne County — $250,000 to help develop ATV trails and such off-trail amenities as cabins, cottages, RV campgrounds, disc golf course, miniature golf, basketball and tennis courts. Resort is adjacent to Cabwaylingo State Forest’s ATV trail system, expected to open late this summer.
Non-recreation projects recommended to receive the grants are:
- Brenton and Baileysville Waterline Extension, Wyoming County — $4.5 million to provide water service to 254 customers, including Baileysville Elementary and Middle School.
- Rhodell Water Upgrade, Raleigh County — $2.1 million to add three miles of waterline to serve homes along Coal City Road near Rhodell.
- White Oak Water Extension — $1.3 million to add 3.75 miles of water line to serve residents living along the Raleigh-Summers County border.
- Harper-Eccles Sewer Extension, Raleigh County — $7.6 million to add three miles of public sewer line along W.Va. 3.
- Oak Hill Sanitary Board/Minden Sewer System Upgrade, Fayette County — $1.5 million to upgrade existing sewer lines, pump stations and collection systems in the Minden area.
- Renaissance Village, Welch, McDowell County — $1 million for a housing facility for teachers, with added commercial space.