by Jim Sconyers, Conservation Chair |
Allegheny Wood Products needs to turn a popular recreational rail-trail into a logging road and asks the US Forest Service to give them as easement to do just that! Read on and contact the USFS today!
Blackwater Canyon is once again targeted for degradation of its recreation resource. This time around it’s the same old players, the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) and Allegheny Wood Products (AWP), who want to abuse the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail.
The latest proposal from USFS and AWP, in simplest terms, is something like this: We, the citizens who own the Monongahela National Forest, would give AWP an easement to, in effect, turn the rail trail into a logging road. AWP would grade the trail to logging road standards and surface the former trail turned road with large aggregate (stone) as required for their logging trucks and other equipment. Once the conversion to a road was complete, AWP would have free and full access to use it as they wished. Today the Blackwater Canyon Trail is one of West Virginia’s premier trails. It is used by hikers,bikers, X-C skiers, kayakers, birders, photographers,history buffs, and many more.
The Trail is a marvel of wild natural landscapes in every season as it drops steadily for 10 miles. The scenery is stunning, and the Trail is smooth and gradual all the way. It is also rich in the history of the area. The Trail is very popular for bicyclists and hikers,with the full length from Thomas to Hendricks providing an excellent day trip. It is also a lovely cross-country ski or snowshoe venue when there is snow.
One of the lesser-known uses of the Blackwater Canyon Trail is as an access route to or from the wildest,deepest reaches of the Blackwater River for amazingly intrepid kayakers. On my most recent hike on the Trail I met a group of boaters coming up – yes, up – from the deep river bottom as they carried their boats back to their vehicles after a run on the river.
Besides its scenic and recreational values, the Trail and its users have created the demand for new businesses in the area – outfitters, shuttle services,etc.
How will the easement that the Forest Service proposes to give to AWP affect recreation on the Blackwater Canyon Trail? The impact is fairly obvious.
First, when AWP vehicles are using the Trail the experience of cyclists and hikers will be ruined. Use your imagination – mountain biker encounters huge log trucks. The noise, fumes, etc. will definitely not enhance the outdoor recreationist’s venture.
Second is a more concrete problem – the stone applied to the Trail to make it usable by logging vehicles, all the way from pickup trucks to log trucks to flatbeds. This is large aggregate stone – which is anathema to bikers, hikers, and skiers. Once the Trail is converted to this type of surface, it will be basically unavailable for those recreational uses.
There is plenty if irony here if you want to see it. Foremost is the fact that the ruination of the Trail is completely unnecessary, because there are other ways for AWP to access the parts of the Canyon it wants to. These would totally avoid the Trail.
The Forest Service is in a “scoping” process now, which means that they can accept and read your comments if you have concerns about their plans. If you have used the Blackwater Canyon Trail recreationally or know people who have, and you would like to express your concerns about the negative impacts from the proposed AWP easement, contact:
Clyde Thompson, Supervisor
Monongahela National Forest
200 Sycamore Street
Elkins, WV 26241