The federal Economic Development Authority (EDA) has approved an application from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to receive $2.8 million to build 35 miles of new mountain bike trails at Cacapon State Park. New trails will add to the 17 miles of mountain bike trails already at Cacapon, some new and some trails from the park’s original hiking trail system.
Mountain bike enthusiasts have invested labor and funding into Cacapon State Park in recent years to add biking trails to the park’s trail system, and add bike features to existing trails. Most recently, the park and bike groups worked together to build Thunderstruck, a custom-made mountain bike trail from the top of Cacapon Mountain down to other new trails around the Batt Pavilion and Nature Center.
On Tuesday, July 19, the EDA announced the new $2.8 million trail funding, which comes from their Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Program through American Rescue Plan funds.
The money is supposed to complete construction of a full mountain bike trail system at Cacapon.
Economic development leaders have said building the park’s mountain bike system is expected to generate economic growth in the Eastern Panhandle.
“The funding announced today will assist the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in completing the final design of the Cacapon mountain bike trail system, developing 35 miles of new trails, constructing multiple bike facilities and field flagging the trail alignments. The project is expected to create 36 jobs, save 46 jobs and generate $934,000 in private investment, which will support local businesses and boost economic growth throughout the region,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Danny Twilley, Assistant Vice of President of Economic, Community & Asset Development at West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, said those job figures and economic impact were calculated based on a model projecting how many visitors will come to the park to use the mountain bike system, and their spending impact on the region.
Twilley told The Morgan Messenger on Friday that WVU’s Outdoor Collaborative has provided technical assistance in getting various grants for the trail system, including this unique EDA grant.
He said Cacapon’s plans are significant in many ways.
“What’s significant about a project like this is that this will be one of the largest built trail systems in the state park system,” Twilley said. Planners expect the finished system to be an example of a “high-quality, multi-use trail system in a state park.”
West Virginia is trying to capitalize on its natural resources for economic development, and this project fits into that larger aim, Twilley said.
He said Cacapon will definitely be marketed as a mountain bike destination.
Mark Hoyle, a Winchester-based mountain bike organizer, first introduced bike trails to Cacapon and has been at the forefront of pushing to design, fund and build mountain bike amenities at Cacapon State Park. Hoyle has mobilized a growing number of volunteers and bike trail enthusiasts to transform Cacapon’s offerings.
“The trail plan has over 30 miles of new trails. The objective is to make Cacapon a mountain bike destination, and one of the top mountain bike trail systems on the whole east coast,” said Hoyle.
“In total, we have now been awarded over $4,000,000 in grants to develop mountain bike trails at Cacapon State Park. We have only spent about $400,000 of that money on the new trails Rock and Roll, Middle Fork, and now Thunderstruck,” he said.
Trails range from beginner-level experiences to very challenging tracks.
Twilley said at some point, the park may offer bike rentals so that guests with no mountain biking experience can try the beginner courses. Experienced riders will travel to tackle new trails, said Twilley. Cacapon hopes to capture that market and the money those visitors spend during trips.
Region 9 Planning and Development wrote the EDA grant for the State Parks, which is the recipient of the grant.
Morgan County Commissioner Bill Clark said the county helped coordinate resources and members of the collaborative effort in order to submit the funding request. Over the last several years, the Morgan County Commission has directed Hotel/Motel funding toward the Cacapon bike trail system as it was built in sections.
For this grant, the state Division of Natural Resources will provide the financial match in the amount of $700,000.
Governor Jim Justice said the Cacapon project is in line with the tourism and economic promotion efforts his administration has been making over the last several years.
“People from all over recognize West Virginia as one of the best destinations for outdoor recreation in the nation. That’s why one of the first things I did as Governor was to increase our investments in tourism, allowing us to market our natural wonder to the world. The results have been astounding. We’ve become one of the top destinations in America for adventure seekers. And now, this investment between the EDA and our Division of Natural Resources to build more mountain biking infrastructure in our Eastern Panhandle is going to help us continue to show the world what West Virginia is all about,” said Governor Jim Justice.
Because the funds have come from the American Rescue Plan, the project must focus on helping the region with its economic recovery and growth.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is dedicated to supporting the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sector as it works to recover and rebuild following the pandemic,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will boost critical tourism and hospitality industries in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle while building resiliency in the region’s economy.”
This project is funded under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program. EDA awarded $510 million in grants to all 50 states and territories in 2021. The two programs are designed to accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. The $3 billion program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through September 30, 2022.
Details about the proposed mountain bike trails at Cacapon are available at the park and from the Cacapon State Park Foundation.