The Cheat River Water Trail committee, working under the guidance of Friends of the Cheat, was formed in April 2012 with the goal of developing a state-designated water trail on the Cheat River. Although the larger goal is to develop a water trail over the entire length of the river, the team felt the best way to achieve the goal was to develop the trail in sections. The first section that the team is seeking to designate as a water trail, the Upper Cheat River Water Trail, begins just above Parsons, in Hendricks, and continues approximately 38 miles downstream to Rowlesburg.
What is a Water Trail? Simply put, it is a trail for boats. Water trails are recreational corridors and routes on rivers and lakes that provide adequate access points used for planning trips of various lengths and difficulty. A water trail may also provide access to riverside campgrounds, primitive campsites, and amenities such as shelters and restrooms in city, county, or state parks.
A water trail has a detailed map showing access points and river mileage and may also provide information on history and area culture, wildlife viewing opportunities, and other supplemental information to foster a holistic outdoor experience. Water trails help connect visitors to the history, heritage, geology and wildlife of the area. A water trail promotes an ethic of caring that makes users more aware of their surrounding environment and serve as a passive educational venue. Whether they are used for relaxation, health and fitness, education, or just for spending time with family, water trails provide in-state destinations for recreational river users that help boost local economies.
Potential access points have been identified and surveyed to determine what property owners should be contacted and what signage and improvements may be needed to create a user-friendly access. Research is being done on historical and other interesting places along the river including key businesses to market to trail users patronize. The development of maps, brochures, and a water trail website are in preliminary stages.
Peggy Pings, Outdoor Recreation Planner with the National Park Service’s Rivers & Trails Program, says “I commend the Friends of the Cheat’s Water Trail Committee for pursuing development of their waterway for public use. There is also a new national System of Water Trails program, and the Cheat River will likely qualify. The Upper Cheat is a beautiful, easy section of river to make available to the world.”
Frank Jernejcic, District Fishery Biologist with the West Virginia Dept. of Natural Resources, says “A water trail on the Cheat River will allow individuals of limited paddling abilities to experience one of West Virginia’s most scenic rivers. The Cheat smallmouth bass fishery has improved significantly during the past 30 years and can provide fishing opportunities for neophyte and experienced anglers alike”.
A key ingredient to the project planning is public input. Town hall meetings are being planned as well as meetings with local county commissions and other government entities. Copies of the Upper Cheat River Water Trail draft designation document, submitted to the West Virginia Recreational Trails Advisory Board, have been posted at the following locations, Tucker County: Tucker County Courthouse; Tucker County Commission Office; Five Rivers Public Library; Parsons City Hall; Hendricks Town Hall; Hambleton Town Hall; Davis City Hall; Thomas City Hall; Mountaintop Public Library; Tucker County Development Authority Office; and Tucker County Visitors Information Center. In Preston County: Preston County Commission Office, Kingwood; Preston County Courthouse, Kingwood; Kingwood City Hall; Kingwood Public Library; Rowlesburg Town Hall; Rowlesburg Post Office; and Albright Town Hall. The document is also available online at www.cheatriverwatertrail.org.
Funding for the development and marketing of the water trail is expected to come from grants and donations. The team hopes to complete the designation process for the first section of the water trail by May of 2013.
Comments, questions, and involvement from community stakeholders are encouraged. For more information, visit the water trail website at www.cheatriverwatertrail.org, join the group’s Face book page at http://www.facebook.com/groups/cheat.river.water.trail/?ref=ts&fref=ts. trail / or contact the Cheat River Water Trail Committee Chair, Dave Cassell, via e-mail at email@example.com