New River Gorge National River Proposing Hiking/Biking Trails

Officials at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia are talking about adding shared-use hiking and biking trails. NPS graphic.

As evidence that there's more to meet the eye than just a river, the folks at New River Gorge National River are talking about creating some shared-use trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

On Tuesday, December 8, officials from the national river will hold an open house at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center located on U.S. Route 19, two miles north of Fayetteville, West Virginia, to discuss proposals to expand their existing trail system to the Craig Branch and Garden Ground areas of the park.

Both areas were acquired by the Park Service in the years since the national river was designated and previously had been mined and logged, according to Jamie Fields, an outdoor planner at the park. As such, there are old dirt tracks that might be suitable for trails, she said Thursday.

Under the proposals, “stacked loop” single-track trail systems would be developed in each area. Such systems blend beginner, intermediate, and expert loops systems together, explained Ms. Fields.

“You usually start from the same trailhead and they become concentric circles and end at the same point,” she said. “One of the two areas that we’re proposing to put trails in is going to be focused on green and blue loops. The other area is going to be focused on blue and black loops based on the terrain.”

Exactly how many miles of trail might be constructed if the plan is approved remains to be seen, although it could be upwards of 35-40 miles.

Along with taking public comment on these proposed additions, park officials also will discuss whether to allow mountain biking on some existing trails and administrative roads within New River Gorge National River and Bluestone National Scenic River. While such use has in the past been allowed under a change in the superintendent’s compendium, the park’s in-house book of regulations, that approach to allowing mountain biking in parks has been found to be inappropriate and so public comment on the proposed rule change is necessary.

The decision to consider mountain biking on the national river’s landscape came as a result of public comments submitted as park officials worked on revisions to their general management plan. Many of those voiced strong support for mountain biking and more trails in general in the park, said Ms. Fields.

“There are a lot of people around here who like to mountain bike,” she said. “We want to help expose people to the resource and make the park relevant to people. For a lot of young people now, part of that relevancy is biking.”

Along with the public meeting next week, comments on the proposal are being taken through January 15. A draft environmental assessment on the proposed trails is expected early next summer.

If a decision is made to go forward, the trails work would be beneficial to the landscape, said Ms. Fields, as a lot of rehabilitation will be required to mitigate the impacts from past land-use practices and halt erosion. Additionally, sustainable building practices would be used to ensure the trails hold up to the mountain biking, she said.

“There are ways in which we’ll be helping the environment by putting these trails in,” she said.

You can find details about the proposal, and comment on it, by clicking here. You also can mail your comments to:

Don Striker, Superintendent
New River Gorge National River
P.O. Box 246
Glen Jean, WV 25846

Comments

I feel that this could be a good thing for this park. With the rich history and less than adequate ability to reach certian areas of this park, a new trail system could open up these areas to many other users who may have not been able to reach these historicaly rich and naturaly beautiful areas. Also West Virginia itself has a growing problem with the health of it's citizens due to obiesity. By offering another way for the local people to get out and enjoy this Park, you also create another way for them to get fit while enjoyng nature.

The issue of Biking on these trails is also another great way to expand the reach and drawl of any national park. There have been studies showing the impact of a bike on a mountain trail and they support that in most cases it is no more, and sometimes less than, a foot hiker. By allowing this user group access to the trails there may also be another strong support group that will take care of this asset after it is built. This would reduce the work that the Park Service would have to do in maintaining these trails by tapping into a wealth of volunteer support. Biking groups are well known for the hours they put into trail care/work each year nation wide.