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Trail Accelerator Grant: A Case Study

Trail Accelerator Grant: A Case Study

How Lost River State Park in West Virginia Will Benefit

Posted: May 25, 2023
A concept map of Lost River State Park and hands holding a smartphone with a  topographic map on screen.
Photo courtesy of: Eric Fitzpatrick

Big Ridge Mountain overlooks a future pin for your mountain biking map in West Virginia: Lost River State Park.

Known for its iconic Cranny Crow Overlook, Lost River State Park encompasses 3,172 acres of West Virginia Department of Natural Resources managed land. Dotted throughout those acres are 26 miles of shared-use trails, primarily constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. While these miles have provided great opportunities for outdoor recreation, Lost River is a prominent area for equestrians (12 miles of the existing trails are designated for horses), and WV State Parks holds a mandate that mountain bikers and equestrians cannot share trail use. The remaining miles are steep and unforgiving - great for hiking but not ideal mountain biking for novice riders or challenged athletes.

Creating Space for Riders of All Abilities

At the state level, West Virginia is growing its reputation as a burgeoning place for supporting mountain biking-specific trail development. The Lost River Trails Coalition (LRTC), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that includes representatives from the park, world-class mountain bikers and local enthusiasts, recognized the need for mountain bike-optimized and family-friendly trails in their county’s most valuable outdoor asset.

After organizing themselves around that goal in 2020, they surveyed challenges around the currently existing trails and determined that creating a trail system from scratch was the best option. Obviously a major undertaking, the LRTC saw this as an opportunity one that provides the prospect of creating a complete trail system that is universally designed to be accessible by all riders. And particularly, LRTC was interested in specifically focusing on new trails suitable for a-MTB'ers.

While there are other trails in the region designed for use by a-MTB equipment riders, there is no other site with a complete a-MTB trail system that is universally designed, appropriately engineered, and built to include signage, obstacle-free parking, restrooms, and access points. The LRTC and its partners hope that by creating a universal a-MTB trail system in the state park, the sport’s reach to youth and adults of all abilities from the nearby community and the region is greatly expanded and will create the opportunity for all riders to be fully engaged in the trail experience.

Utilizing the IMBA Trail Accelerator Grant

The LRTC, along with Lost River State Park, the Hardy County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Hardy County Commission, and with assistance from WVU's Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, applied for an IMBA Trail Accelerator Grant (TAG) and were awarded the grant during the 2022 cycle. Alongside TAG and its matching contributors, this project is also supported by the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area, AmeriCorps, and the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League to develop a local NICA team.

After a project kickoff in late March, the IMBA Trail Solutions team was on the ground swiftly by mid-April in Mathias, WV for assessment of existing trails, ground truthing specific sites of interest, and flagging new trails. Working in the tough to access north-end of the park, IMBA Trail Solutions Project Manager Liz Grades and Planner Matt Brabender designed three miles of beginner/intermediate trails that form a lollipop loop. “Conceptually, there’s a possibility for 25-30 miles of new trail in the future,” said Liz.

The next step for the LRTC is fundraising for the construction of these trails. Those interested can keep an eye out for opportunities to contribute here.

About the author
Liz Chrisman portrait

Liz (she/her) grew up pedaling a garage sale 10-speed on the dirt roads of the Arkansas River Valley and on tarmac throughout college. While finishing her master's program, a coworker handed her a rigid Gary Fisher, drove into the Ouachitas and they conquered mileage on the IMBA EPIC Womble…

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