Friends of the Cheat receive $1.1 million

KINGWOOD — Friends of the Cheat has been awarded $1.1 million by the Appalachian Regional Commission on behalf of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority.

Friends of the Cheat is a nonprofit watershed group working to restore the Cheat River. The goal of this project is to formally launch the Mountaineer Trail Network “as a collection of the best non-motorized trails in the eastern United States for bikes and boats,” a Friends of Cheat press release states.

Friends of the Cheat and its partners will solidify the newly established Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority, an economic development authority created by the West Virginia Legislature in 2019 to oversee the creation, launch, and operation of the Mountaineer Trail Network.

The core work of this project focuses on developing a regional outdoor economy based on current (and largely undiscovered) trails in the Friends of the Cheat 15-county service area, including Randolph, Upshur, Barbour, Tucker, Doddridge, Grant, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, Preston, Ritchie, Taylor and Wood).

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure–including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”

“This project will provide the marketing, organization, and tourism-focused business development needed to leverage these trails as the world-class assets they truly are,” said Friends of the Cheat Executive Director Amanda Pitzer. “This in turn will directly fuel opportunities for new business startups in tourism, lodging, dining, and other related sectors.”

Over the next three years, the Authority will select four to eight existing, top-grade trail areas in northern West Virginia for inclusion in the Mountaineer Trail Network. POWER funds will be used to enhance and market these trail areas and nearby tourism businesses as a nationally- and world-renowned tourism destination for biking and boating, a Friends of the Cheat press release states.

Additional financial support for the Mountaineer Trail Network is provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Fund, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Visit Mountaineer Country Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), Greater Parkersburg CVB, Tucker County CVB, and Marion County CVB.

The project has in-kind support from 33 additional project partners, including 15 county commissions, five CVBs, three county economic development authorities, five county parks and recreation commissions, four state parks, West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and Law School, and 14 trail organizations across the project area.

This award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.

Friends of the Cheat is a 501(c)3 nonprofit watershed group working to restore a river damaged by a legacy of irresponsible land use practices; preserve the health and integrity of the watershed against future degradation; promote the watershed as a haven for beauty and recreation; and educate the community on our work and the economic, cultural, and aesthetic value of clean water.

FOC has administered large, complex projects funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection.

FOC has collaborated with more than 60 private landowners, private industry and local, regional, state, and federal government agencies. FOC is a two-time recipient of the West Virginia “Watershed of the Year” award and is recognized nationally as a leader in river restoration and recreation.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.

Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $3.92/week.

Subscribe Today