BUCKHANNON — “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” the philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote.
Indeed, blazing their own trail is exactly what a group of local mountain biking enthusiasts have done at the Upshur County Recreation Park near Buckhannon-Upshur High School. At Buckhannon City Council’s regular Thursday meeting, Nathan Fetty updated council members on exactly what he, Joey Baxa, J.J. Ford, John Weber and Scott Creak have been up to as they’ve worked collectively to carve out a 4-mile loop for mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers.
“We’re all mountain bikers, we all like to get outside, out from behind the desk or whatever it is we do during the day, and enjoy what Upshur County has to offer,” Fetty, the all-volunteer group’s spokesperson, told council. “But the problem was, we found ourselves leaving town more often than not in order to do that, and as we kind of coalesced in terms of the group looking for more local opportunities in terms of non-motorized outdoor recreation chances, somehow we seized on the county recreation park/high school in order to develop some mountain bike trails.”
Fetty said that over the last year-and-a-half, the group — which charts their progress on Facebook under the page “Upshur County Trails” — has labored on evenings and weekends to establish what’s amounted to “a very well-defined 4-mile route that is suitable for mountain biking, trail running and hiking.”
Fetty thanked Callie Sams, a member of the Upshur County Parks and Recreation Board, for her help with administrative issues, as well as J.J. Ford, who has served as the “design and layout guy.”
“We feel like we’ve really created something that’s started a little sizzle, a little buzz,” Fetty said. “Last evening, I think every one of us was out there at one point. I think there were a dozen mountain bikers out on the site spontaneously unorganized in the middle of the week. So we hope that is really just the beginning of something, not the end of something. We are just on the lookout for opportunities for publicly accessible land for cycling, running, boating, those outdoor recreational opportunities that we’re sitting on in Upshur County that just need a little bit more development.”
The group is in the process of constructing a couple more bridges and is also on the hunt for more land on which it could build additional trails that might eventually link the new loop to the River Trail at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Mayor David McCauley remarked that linking the River Trail to the high school has always been an eventual goal of the city’s.
“You know, 15 years ago or so when the River Trail first started, the dream was to eventually start this thing downtown, [but] we haven’t connected that dot between downtown and Tallmansville and then eventually taken it all the way out to the middle school and then to the Little League complex all the way out to the high school,” McCauley said. “So, if we needed another impetus to make that connect-the-dots advance, you all are certainly giving us that impetus. We’ll work hard to try to secure some funding in advance to try to help get it out there.”
Fetty said the group didn’t need funds, but rather, right-of-ways.
“If council could help us with right-of-ways, we’ll make it happen,” he said.
McCauley said he would see what council members could do.
“We’ll circle the wagons and set up a meeting and see what we need to do — how many property owners are involved — and I have no doubt that the good folks of Upshur County will help us get there,” the mayor said.
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh congratulated the group on their efforts.
“I applaud you all for making this happen,” she said. “Nobody had to beg you to get on a committee. And you’re making a difference, you’re carving out a piece of history in Upshur County.”
Fetty replied, “The ability to formalize non-motorized outdoor recreational activities in Upshur County could really be a great addition to what we have.”
Find the group online by searching “Upshur County Trails” on Facebook. To locate the trail, park in the Upshur County Recreation Park pavilion parking lot. The trail is marked with blue blaze diamonds on the trees. To see a map and read more detailed directions, visit www.mtbproject.com and search “Upshur County Recreation Park.”
The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce is planning an official ribbon cutting for June 3.
In other city business, council also:
p Approved by a vote of 6-1 on second and final reading Ordinance No. 416, the home rule “brunch bill,” which authorizes restaurants and other outlets to begin serving alcohol on Sundays at 10 a.m. instead of 1 p.m. by amending the city’s home rule statutes. Councilwoman Pam Cuppari voted no on the issue.
p Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 417, adopting the W.Va. State Building Code set forth and defined by Title 87, Series 4 of the code of state rules.