By Sarah Richardson
At a recent White Sulfur Springs City Council meeting, local resident and business owner Clay Elkins presented some exciting insights regarding the future of outdoor recreation development in the area.
Recent affiliations with programs in the Greenbrier Valley, including the My Forest Towns program and Ascend West Virginia, have opened up new avenues for recreational development. The West Virginia Community Development Center’s Communities of Achievement program, otherwise known as HubCAP, offers Mon lumber towns like White Sulfur the opportunity to “accelerate community-led economic development” for local projects .
“The Mon Forest Towns are a really great program, and HubCAP is trying to build on that and want to extend the length of time visitors stay in White Sulphur, or Richwood, or Elkins, or whatever MonTown they’re a part of” , explained Elkins. “Over the winter of 2020 we sent out a survey, and it went through newspapers, social media and a few other avenues, and lots of people filled it out. He was asking what we would like to see happen at White Sulfur, which is necessary to continue to improve the community. One hundred and seventy people responded to the survey, and 98% of them said that tourism and outdoor recreation were “crucially important” and that we need to invest more in tourism and outdoor recreation. air.
The main named activities were biking, hiking, a skate park, swimming and fishing.
“Through the HubCAP program, the group of us chose to work on the cycling skill set for our number one project,” Elkins explained. “I learned that from my daughter and her grandchildren, they go to Richmond if they want to ride their bikes. People really use these parks as tourist destinations, they go out and can spend hours there.
A skill bike park is an environment where children, teens or adults can learn essential cycling skills in a safe and fun environment. These are specially designed areas with a gravel or dirt surface and various technical and difficult elements. Skills Bike Parks can be built as one-off bike parks in urban areas or as an addition to existing bike parks. This type of park provides a great option for spending time with family and friends in an engaging way while improving driving skills. Areas of the proposed skill park include a pump track, a push bike track, a track with progressive jump lines and shaded areas for spectators.
However, interest in local bike projects goes back even further, with Elkins founding a youth mountain bike team, the Greenbrier Valley Hellbenders, over four years ago, and continuing to coach.
“We put together a youth mountain bike team, which has been amazing. We didn’t really know what we were getting into when we launched it, but it’s now our fourth year,” Elkins said.
There were only five young riders in the group for the team’s first year, but now that number has grown to 30 riders.
“Every year we keep growing,” he said, “and it’s middle and high school kids. It’s a great way to build awesome humans. It’s not just about racing, it’s about teaching kids to be good people.
He said progress on the bike park really kicked into high gear when they contacted the Ascend West Virginia program for guidance. Ascend helped the group secure a grant for a comprehensive trail plan in the Greenbrier Valley, and now they are developing other “framework” plans for White Sulfur, Ronceverte, Lewisburg and surrounding areas.
Mayor Bruce Bowling added, “We’ve been talking about this for about a year now, and these guys have really done a lot of work.”
While HubCAP funded design work and technical assistance, the rest of the project will be funded through grants and donations. During this preliminary phase, different locations for the park were floated and city council members expressed their resounding support for the project.
“I appreciate the support from the city and the community. We’re really excited,” Elkins said. “I think it’s really just a first phase. When we look at this overall plan which should come out in the next few months, they’re going to try to find ways to tie everything together. When the people from Ascend came here, they were amazed. They said, ‘You just don’t see towns this close to this much public land on the east coast.’ »