Friends of Marion County Trails and Waterways
Marion County's Rail to River - January 2017
One of my favorite things about Fairmont is that we’re an intimate community. When we’re zipping around in cars, it doesn’t always feel that way, but if you look around and think about the city from a birds eye view, nothing is too far away. If we could just get our heads around making the walkways safe and the connections smoother, we could get just about anywhere we need to go by walking and biking. Think of the people we’d see and the exercise that we’d get! We’d save money because who needs the gym when you’re biking so much and why pay for gas when you can just walk? It’s not just Fairmont that’s designed this way – all of Marion County’s small towns are charming and close-knit, walkable and just waiting to be connected.
Walkable communities are all the rage right now and towns all across America are redesigning their neighborhoods to create what we already have! Really, we have even more than most, because not only are out towns walkable, they’re positioned to tap into a giant 1,400 mile trail system that will connect 4 states and 48 counties. When a group of trail advocates came together years ago, they were aware of a seemingly impossible gap in the regional trail system – less than 50 miles of gaps needed to complete a nearly 180-mile, continuous rail-trail from Parkersburg, WV to the Greater Allegheny Passage, which has existing trail connections to Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC. Of that 50 miles, only 4.8 miles are located in Marion County. That’s less than 5 miles standing between Marion County and an economic driver that could improve quality of life for residents and bring visitors from all across the region. Today, closing that gap is within our reach, as our team builds new partnerships and explores new ways to celebrate the trails and waterways that make our home unique.
Efforts are underway to improve walking and biking transportation options around Fairmont, connect two major trail corridors (the West Fork River Trail and the Mon River Trail), and to increase the recreational use of our rivers. Right now, the Friends of Marion County Trails and Waterways is working with the City of Fairmont to discuss viable cross-town links, explore grant funding opportunities, and negotiate simple interim changes that can be made to accommodate pedestrian and bike traffic. This grassroots group is also working to support Marion County Parks and Recreation in their ongoing efforts to improve and maintain existing trails and host river-related events and recreational opportunities. Conversations and relationships are developing with local property owners to explore possible shared connections across privately owned land along our rivers – a process that involves compromise and collaboration and is a huge step forward in our trail development process.
The trails and rivers of Marion County are a way forward. They make our communities more livable, improve our economy through tourism and civic improvement, preserve and restore our open spaces, and provide opportunities for physical activity to improve fitness and mental health. A fully developed trail system and the revival of our riverfronts will impact more than just trails and waterways – the economic impact will inspire redevelopment and business growth throughout the county.
For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of Marion County Trails and Waterways, contact Kate Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org.