ON TRAC closer to meeting goal

ELKINS – Area groups recently moved one small step closer to their vision of shaping Elkins into a more healthy and revitalized historic community.

Elkins City Council voted unanimously last week to stand as the fiscal agent in an application by Elkins ON TRAC for a Growing Healthy Communities Program grant. Due to pending non-profit status, ON TRAC needed the city’s assistance to apply.

“In the big picture, we want to connect all parts of the town with pedestrian and bike paths,” Karen Carper, Project Manager-VISTA of ON TRAC, said Wednesday. “The grant is a small first step.”

Carper said the grant proposes a bicycle/pedestrian path connecting the Elkins Train Depot at the future trailhead for the Allegheny Highlands Trail with the Darden Mill building, the future home of a railroad museum.

Carper said ONTRAC officials are optimistic they will receive the grant. There are only a small number of towns in the state that are eligible, she said.

ON TRAC is working together on the project with the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, the West Virginia Railroad Museum, the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, C-HOPE, the city of Elkins and the Randolph County Development Authority.

The collaborators also hope the new path will connect the downtown attractions with a riverside park located at the foot of the swinging bridge on Wilson Street to complement the city’s proposed replacement bridge.

“Revitalization is an incremental process,” Carper said.

Elkins has been gradually climbing the ladder of categories defined by the state and national government. In 1980, the National Trust for Historic Preservation founded the National Main Street Center. According to their website, “the Main Street movement has transformed the way communities think about the revitalization and management of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.”

To become a Main Street town, the organization has a strict set of criteria that be met. Unfortunately, many small towns cannot afford some of these criteria.

“The state of West Virginia recognized that small communities can’t meet Main Street requirements,” said Carper. “ON TRAC was created with the same principles.”

Founded in 2008, ON TRAC stands for organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. The following year, Joe Manchin, at that time the governor, designated the city of Elkins an ON TRAC community.

If Elkins ON TRAC receives the Growing Healthy Communities grant, the group will be eligible to apply for it one more time. The movement’s supporters plan on taking such incremental steps until Elkins receives its Main Street status, and connects its pedestrian/bicycle network around Elkins plus the entension to Hendricks.