The Heart of Highlands held its annual “stakeholders” meeting last week. The group which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization under the auspices of Tucker Community Foundation is committed to committed to connecting the non-motorized trail systems of five land management agencies in Tucker County. The five agencies are Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area, and Monongahela National Forest.
The group has been in existence since 2008. Base funding was gained in 2010 from a grant agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with Tucker Community Foundation serving as the fiscal agent. In 2011 a project administrator was selected in the person of Canaan Valley resident Julie Dzaack.
Nearby Garrett County, Maryland has a similar project with like-minded goals. The Heart of Highlands (HoH) has listed three project phases. 1. To complete and upgrade the core loop trail. 2. The connection of the core loop to trails on partner properties. 3. Connect to long distance and national recreational trails around us ie.. Allegheny Highland Trail, American Discovery Trail, and the Great Allegheny Passage.
The Core Loop trail is approximately 23 miles long, about half of which was already in existence when the group formed. The Group has made progress over the last couple of years. In 2011 they accomplished the replacement of the old swinging bridge (which had become unsafe) off of Camp Road 70 (the area lays behind the Shop and Save in Davis). Among some of their accomplishments in 2012 were the completion of the connector trail to the splash dam south trail, work with the Tucker County High School trail program to teach sustainable trail skills and restored their Outdoor Learning Trail thereby providing students with community service opportunity hours.
Some of the highlights for this year’s accomplishments were: producing working trail maintenance logs, contracting with Zachary Adams as Trail Crew Leader, two of HoH’s volunteers completed a three-day training to be certified to operate chainsaws on National Forest lands, purchase of tools and materials along with renting a storage unit for them, also help secure the official designation of mountain bike trail on Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area trails, and worked on building a partnership with First Energy to explore and support a “Town Trails” option.
Although the group has many dedicated members, advisors, and volunteers; the scope of work accomplished has required the help of many strong young people in a couple of different forms.
One of Zachary Adams’ jobs is working with AmeriCorps members. HoH also sponsored a ten member Student Conservation Association Leader Crew. The SCA is based out of New Hampshire with a mission statement to build the next generation of conservation leaders. The group came with a wide range of technical abilities and completed many projects on the trail during their fifty days here.
The group laid out some of their upcoming goals. They are working toward the completion of the Core Loop Trail (two key connectors are still needed), continue with upgrades and maintenance of existing trails, the completion and installation of trail markers, the installation of informational kiosks.
For more information on Heart of Highlands go to: www.heartofthehighlandstrail.org.