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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2010

Threat to Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail: Coming to a Head?

According to the U. S. Forest Service, a decision on one long-simmering dispute over the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail may be coming to a head very soon. The bursting boil metaphor may or may not be appropriate.

The Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail, an officially designated trail in the Monongahela National Forest trail system, has been an extremely popular recreational asset for decades. It is a highly scenic, historic, and well-used trail, popular with hikers, bikers, skiers, kayakers, and many other folks who enjoy wild scenic grandeur in the great outdoors.
 Blackwater Canyon from the Rail Trail

But that’s not what everyone sees when they look at the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail. When John Crites’s Allegheny Wood Products (AWP) looks at it, they see a cheap way to cut the timber in the Canyon and get it to market. Are there other ways to “harvest” the company’s trees? Well, yes, of course! But if AWP can bully the Forest Service and take control, the rail trail would be a cheaper way to enhance their famous bottom line.”

Can you imagine hikers and other recreationists sharing the “road” with log trucks and equipment on this narrow rustic trail? No, neither can I, and neither can AWP and the Forest Service. Instead, expect the trail to be closed if AWP gets its way.

Allegheny’s intransigence and posturing have already caused the closure of popular trailheads adjacent to Blackwater Falls State Park. These used to provide access to beautiful National Forest trails on Canaan Mountain, but are now closed to the public.

Are we to see the day when the  Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail, one of the most outstanding trails in West Virginia, is converted into an industrial haul road? I hope not — but stay tuned.

Here's What You Can Do:

Contact Clyde Thompson, Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest.
(304) 636-1800
cnthompson@fs.fed.us

Let him know that you want the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail protected for its scenic and recreational values. Ask him to deny Allegheny Wood Products use of the rail trail as a timber haul road.

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