Disputing claims about rail trail connector

We are responding to a letter to the editor from Scott Godwin of Pasadena, Maryland. He made comments in The Inter-Mountain’s May 25 edition about the new rail trail connector which, when opened soon, will connect the present Allegheny Highlands Trail from Highland Park to the Elkins depot. Godwin seems to be against the connector because of the expense and the possibility of harm to motorists.

The author apparently views himself as an expert, but actually knows very little about the project or its funding. The grant funds were very specific to recreation and alternative transportation development and could not have been allocated to other projects as he suggests. And if Elkins did not get the grant, some other lucky community would have gotten the money. The citizens of Elkins are not bearing the cost, but will reap the benefits. We believe that having the trailhead at the depot will be transformational to downtown Elkins. We have seen this in other areas, for instance the business development hear the rail trail in Morgantown.

Downtowns that are recreation destinations have an economic edge over those who don’t. Bicycle tourists are the best kind. Statistics show that they spend more on average than most. Contrary to what Godwin implies, the community has been extremely supportive of the project for a number of years and deserves to experience these positive outcomes and more. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this long-awaited project and confident that its completion will show how beneficial it is.

The author assumes the perspective of a driver of a car and not a pedestrian or a cyclist. Having run and biked on the side of the road on 219 north before arriving at the trail in Highland Park, it is not easy and it is not safe. The connector and the bridge will make Elkins more accessible to those traveling on bike or foot.

The author also assumes that the trail route was undertaken without considering many possible routes. He is sorely mistaken. The West Virginia Division of Highways had several options available for public comment, and after careful consideration made the final decision on the route. Also, to be considered a rail trail, that trail must follow the old rail route as much as possible. The route up over the hill at the college was considered less safe by the Division of Highways engineers. One route even had two bridges, but was considered too expensive.

The author also asserted that the bridge will be dangerous to motorists. The fact is that the bridge is totally covered to protect the roadway below.

The connector will be so much safer for cyclists and especially kids. Please give it a chance.

Highland Trails Foundation Board Members

Dr. Mary Boyd and

Sarah Forbes,