In April 2015, project partners Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) and Friends of the Cheat (FOC) announced that ten miles of the former West Virginia Northern Railroad corridor between Kingwood and Tunnelton had been purchased for conversion into a rail-trail.
Funding for the property acquisition was provided by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways; the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust; and the West Virginia Division of Tourism. The property and associated trail rights were purchased for $110,000 from Utah-based Kern Valley Railroad which acquired the railroad in 2000 following the closure of the stakeholder-operated Kingwood Northern tourist train.
Since 2002, a group of volunteers known as the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) has worked persistently and patiently on developing rail-trails on three corridors in Preston County, and this purchase marks the group’s first rail-trail acquisition. In 2011, FOC took action to bring attention and resources to other aspects of the project. These efforts resulted in a wave of activity: the century-old water tower was listed as a historic Endangered Property by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV); funding and technical support from the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center supported the development of conceptual revitalization plans for the former railcar maintenance facility near the water tower; and Stan Hostler donated 2.5 acres of property adjacent to the water tower and trail. The emergence of the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission as a partner represents the project’s final keystone because their willingness to own and manage the trail allows the project to come to fruition.
The Recreational Trails program has granted the project team an additional $420,000 for rail-trail design and construction. 2016 saw the design of the first sections of the trail slated to be constructed reach the final stages with revisions awaiting approval. Site preparation and construction of the first sections will immediately follow the design approval. The first sections will include an asphalt paved section called “the spur” that will start at a point near the Craig Civic Center in Kingwood (formerly the train depot site) and curve through a residential neighborhood to the primary trailhead property along Sisler Street. From the Sisler Street site, the primary trail corridor will follow a southerly course toward the town of Tunnelton. The current $420,000 Recreational Trails grant will fund trail construction for approximately 2 miles out of Kingwood. The surface material for the primary trail corridor will be crushed, compacted stone.
PCPaRC is in the process of seeking funding for the design and construction of the remaining trail corridor, development of a formal Tunnelton trailhead site, and for the development of the Sisler Street trailhead site as a county park facility.
Details and updates on the status of those projects will be provided as they occur.
Trail Manager Contact
Preston County Parks & Recreation Commission
106 W. Main Street, Kingwood, WV 26537