Established a year ago, the West Virginia Flatwater Trails Commission is moving forward to connect the resources of the state’s 14 water trails, including 88 miles of waterways being developed for the boating, kayaking and fishing.
Commission Chairman Bill Currey said the organization has studied trail networks in other states and will now move forward in their country, working for economic prosperity wherever trails are established.
“The Flatwater Trails Commission has been around for a year and we have had reasonable success because no one has ever really identified the number of flatwater trails,” said Currey.
Having found success with the Coal River Group, created to clean up the Coal River, Currey was appointed in 2021 by Governor Jim Justice to head the Volunteer Commission, which works in concert with the Virginia State Department of Natural Resources.
“The commission looks after the 14 water trails, and we manage any trails that would be designated on top of that. We are not a regulatory agency. Basically, we are appointed by the legislature to defend the water trails and solve the problems.
The new year brings new goals for the commission, including developing funding through the legislature to provide more support and equipment for the state’s water trails.
Additionally, members learned of the calm water commissions in surrounding states, some of which have been in place for 20 years.
“All of the states surrounding West Virginia have a very sophisticated flatwater trail commission and budgets to fund this commission and the ongoing promotional and advertising efforts to get people on their flatwater trails throughout the region.” , did he declare.
“But we didn’t have one, so we’re in a rush to try to catch up and promote West Virginia’s flatwater rivers for the kayaking industry. It is a tremendous opportunity to develop tourism for regions which are in desperate need of a reason for tourists to come to their region.
Once the commission was formed, the state’s water trails became eligible for recreational trail funding generally allocated for the construction of hiking and biking trails.
“The reason a lot of people wanted to create a calm water trail was that once they had followed all the rules and got permission, they could apply for recreational trail funding to build boat ramps. water, buy signs and promote their trail, ”Currey mentioned.
By promoting the trails to kayakers across the country, the number of visitors to the region increases and the flat water trails serve one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the country: kayaking.
The commission estimates that more than 1,500 paddlers use the water trails every weekend during the summer months, and they expect the number to continue to grow.
One area that has seen growth attributed to water trails is Saint Albans, where the Coal River empties into the Kanawha River. There, the Coal River group joined forces with the city to create Yak Festival, a two-day community festival inspired by the Coal tower an event.
“Saint Albans is the benefactor of much of the promotion we have done to encourage people to come and use our Coal River Water Trail,” said Currey.
“The Yak Fest event draws over 12,000 people to Saint Albans to party, drink craft beer, eat food and listen to great music, all based on the theme of kayaking.”
Other hard-hit areas on rivers will benefit from the economic boom in river tourism and water trails. However, these waters must be cleaned up.
“We want every riverside city to experience this by promoting their own rivers,” said Currey.
“If it’s not clean, people won’t come, all the more reason to promote kayaking; he encourages volunteers to want to clean up, to help clean up the river. If we don’t have clean rivers, we don’t have visitors.