County signs $1.96 million funding agreement for North Berkeley Rail Trail project

$125K in local funds to match federal & state dollars

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County officials have authorized a funding agreement between the Morgan County Commission and the West Virginia Division of Highways to pay for construction of a long-planned North Berkeley Rail Trail.

The trail will begin at the historic Berkeley Springs train depot and follow the old railroad bed north along Warm Springs Run, cross Jimstown Road and end at Sandmine Road.

Workers with Pentoney Excavating tackled heavy brush removal last summer at the southern end of the North Berkeley Rail Trail.

The total project is expected to cost $1,966,017 to build, according to the funding document.

Several funding streams will pay for the trail — $1.34 million from a supplemental federal recreational trail grant, $267,904 from state toll credits, $341,195 trail and transportation alternatives grants from FY2012, $160,000 in trail funds from FY 2016 and a $125,298 match from Morgan County.

This funding agreement rolls in grant funding for the trail from as far back as September 2013.

County officials budgeted $90,000 in their current fiscal year for the trail match. The remaining funds will come from the carryover fund, said commissioners.

Contractors will bid on both the design and construction of the trail, which includes some bridge crossings. The rail trail must be built in compliances with Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines.

The Morgan County Commission, known in the agreement as the Sponsor of the project, will be responsible for the maintenance of the trail for 20 years. The county agrees that the design plans for the trail must result in construction within 10 years of the funding. If not, federal funds have to be repaid to the federal government or state funders.

The North Berkeley Rail Trail project is being built under the Transportation Alternatives Recreational Trails Program.

A group of volunteers working with the county and the Town of Bath have helped envision and clear much of the length of the trail.

The trail head at the Berkeley Springs train depot has been cleaned up from its former industrial uses in order to meet recreational land standards. Work is underway now to tend to trees and landscape the area at the head of the trail.