Community, The Braxton Democrat

Study Says Elk River Trail Will Provide Huge Economic Benefits

In pursuit of its mission to promote economic development along the trail corridor, Elk River Trail Foundation partnered with the Braxton County Development Authority to commission a $75,000 study to recommend steps to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the trails and develop “trail town,” recreation-based economies around them. The results of the study are astounding.
Key strategies identified in this report include:
• Development of nearly 70 new businesses over the next 10-years.
• Construction of key infrastructure to promote the flow of people between the Trail System and Trail Towns.
• Marketing of the Trail System and Trail Towns through existing and new outlets.
• Adoption of local policies designed to help with visitor attraction and small business development.
Implementation of these and other strategies included in this report is expected to cost just over $4 million over the next 10 years. However, the economic impact associated with new tourist activity in Sutton, Gassaway, Clay, and Clendenin is much more substantial. The report finds that the Elk River Trail Towns could reasonably anticipate $250 million in new sales activity over the next 15-years. This spending would result in nearly $390 million in regional economic activity. This activity would support 195 full- and part-time jobs across different sectors of the economy.
The report identifies specific ideas for each town as well as common goals that each of the four towns should pursue in order to build a trail town, recreation and tourism-based economy.
Elk River Trail Foundation is now seeking additional funding to implement many aspects of the plans identified in the report. In addition to the Towns of Clendenin, Clay, Gassaway and Sutton, ERTF is working with Braxton County Development Authority, Clay County Business Development Authority, the Kanawha County Commission, Advantage Valley, and other organizations to identify prospective entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities identified in the report. Advantage Valley, through its FASTR WV program, will instruct budding entrepreneurs in all aspects of starting and running a business.
The ERTF encourages everyone to review the full report and to share it with anyone interested in pursuing an opportunity along the trail system and with anyone who wishes to help implement the plan. ERTF can be contacted at [email protected]. The full report is being posted on their website,
Elk River Trail Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation formed in 2020 to support the Elk River Trail – a 93-mile long rail trail along the Elk River from Clendenin, Kanawha County, through Clay County, to Gassaway in Braxton County. The trail will be owned and operated by the WV Division of Natural Resources as a state park. The trail includes an 18-mile rails-with-trail section located entirely in Clay County that will offer rail rides or peddle cars for visitors. In 2022, ERTF also became the sponsoring entity for the 102-mile Elk River Water Trail running from Sutton Dam at Sutton in Braxton County through Clay County to Charleston in Kanawha County.