Community, The Braxton Democrat

Elk River Trail Foundation Receives $1,365,000 Grant

The Elk River Trail Foundation has been awarded $1,365,000 in grant funds by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for the Harnessing the Economic Power of the Elk River Trails Project, designed to kickstart the implementation of the Elk River Trails plan to intentionally grow business and downtown development alongside the expansion of the Elk River Rail and Water Trails. Specifically, grant funds will be used to better connect the trail systems to the four trail towns of Clendenin, Clay, Sutton, and Gassaway by constructing trailheads, water access points, and pedestrian access. In addition, the grant will support the beautification of the communities by establishing a downtown facade program. A significant effort will also be made to promote outdoor recreation and tourism business development through Advantage Valley’s FASTER WV program which is designed to provide coaching, technical assistance and financing to new and expanding small businesses. The grant will also provide funding for a comprehensive marketing program to promote the four communities and the trail systems.
This project addresses priorities outlined in a 2022 ARC-funded Elk River Trail Town Plan that identified the opportunities for business and tourism infrastructure expansion and job creation along the Elk River. The project is expected to create over 40 businesses and leverage significant private investment along the trails and within the communities.
This award is part of a recently announced nearly $54 million package supporting 64 projects in 217 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, which directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachian communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries. This is the largest single POWER awards package to date since the initiative launched in 2015.
“From workforce training and agriculture, to downtown development and broadband expansion, the projects receiving grants in this round of POWER funding show that the future of Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities is economically diverse and innovative,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Projects like these are resulting in life-changing transformations, which in turn, not only provides new economic opportunities, but brings a renewed sense of hope and purpose across our Appalachian Region.”
“We are excited to partner with the Foundation on this initiative. The outdoor recreation economy is growing significantly in West Virginia and this trail system is no different,” said Terrell Ellis, President & CEO of Advantage Valley. “When fully constructed, we project visitations to the Elk River Trails to approach 150,000 annually. Our analysis shows that these visitors will spend an average of $100 per day. Funding from this grant will allow us to expand our FASTER WV program to assist new and expanding small businesses with startups and expansions so that we can meet the demand that is projected by increased tourism in these communities,” said Ellis.
“I am very excited that this grant enables the Foundation to support and promote economic growth associated with the Elk River Rail and Water Trails. We are already seeing the development of outdoor recreation and tourism-related businesses along the trails, and this grant will help our communities become attractive trail towns,” says Ken Tawney, President of the Elk River Trails Foundation. “I also want to thank our partners, including Advantage Valley, Braxton County Commission, Braxton County Development Authority, and 25045 – A New Clendenin, Inc. We thank ARC for this funding, as well as the Benedum Foundation who also assisted with funding the original trail town study. Finally, I want to recognize the efforts of our board, our trail town committee, and the volunteers who have spent time contributing to this project and who will continue to do so as we move into the implementation stage of this project.” The Elk River Trail Foundation preserves, protects, and enhances the Elk River Trails for public recreation, community health and well-being, conservation, ecology, education, economic development, and cultural enrichment. The Elk River Trail System runs through portions of Kanawha, Clay, and Braxton Counties. Paralleling the Elk River, the Elk River Trail System provides recreation opportunities for anglers, boaters, cyclists, hikers, and equestrians living in or visiting the center of the state.