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Shiloh Trail Riders

Members of the Shiloh Trail Riders equestrian group ride a trail at North Bend State Park last month.

A new equestrian campground with a covered corral and 20 covered stalls is taking shape at North Bend State Park, according to Department of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel.

McDaniel said a surge in interest in trail riding spurred the decision to move forward with development of the new horse-friendly campground, to be built adjacent to the existing Cokeley Campground at North Bend. When complete, it will be the largest of three equestrian campgrounds in the state parks system.

“Thousands of people from here and surrounding states have made us aware of their interest in new places to ride trails and camp in West Virginia,” McDaniel said.

The new equestrian campground will include a loop of 12 pull-in campsites large enough to handle campers and trailers, all equipped with power and water hookups. The bathhouse at the neighboring 28-site Cokeley Campground will be available to those staying the new campground.

McDaniel first announced plans to develop the new campground last month in Ellenboro, during a meeting of the Shiloh Trail Riders. The meeting was also attended by delegations from other West Virginia riding groups, along with equestrians from clubs in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“There were 130 people from four states at the meeting, which shows the kind of interest there is in trail riding” in the region, McDaniel said.

During the meeting, Brent DeWees, president of the Washington County Chapter of Ohio Horseman’s Council, said council members rode 6,000 trail miles at North Bend last year.

Last week, about 30 volunteers from Shiloh Trail Riders worked on a new equestrian trail segment linking the North Bend lodge to a picnic shelter. Previous trail work by riding club volunteers includes assisting in the development of the 16-mile North Bend Lake Equestrian Trail, which is planned to eventually encircle North Bend Lake.

The 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail, accessible from the park, is open to horseback riders.

The new North Bend equestrian campground will be funded through a $150 million state parks improvement initiative Gov. Jim Justice announced last year. North Bend is in line to receive $5 million of that sum for lodge, shelter and campground improvements.

Construction of the new campground, now in its design phase, is expected to begin next spring and be completed by next fall, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said other state parks will likely be considered for similar horse-friendly campgrounds following completion North Bend.

West Virginia’s state parks system currently operates equestrian campgrounds at Camp Creek State Park, where 13 campsites with stalls and pens are available, and at Holly River State Park, with three equestrian campsites and corrals.

Rick Steelhammer is a features reporter. He can be reached at 304-348-5169 or Follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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