MWCD Hosts Meeting to Discuss Building World-Class Hiking and Mountain Biking Trail System in Coshocton County
Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) officials recently held a meeting for stakeholders including elected officials, economic development representatives, trail groups, and state and local officials in Cambridge, Ohio. The MWCD is seeking funding from Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Grant Program funds to build a world-class trail system at its Wills Creek property located in Coshocton County, Ohio. If funding is awarded through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM), MWCD plans to convert abandoned mine lands into an area that the public can safely recreate. This trail system will also bring economic development to the surrounding communities.
“Outdoor recreation is a growing industry throughout the country, and our region is no exception,” said Craig Butler, MWCD executive director. “We are working to diversify outdoor recreation opportunities and believe this proposed trail system, along with the Bailey’s trail in Chauncey, Ohio and the trails on/near our lands in Ashland and Richland Counties will become a world-class ‘Triangle of Trails’, attracting families from across the region and country to enjoy.”
This initial kick-off meeting provided an opportunity for attendees to better understand MWCD’s projected plans in the Wills Creek watershed. MWCD owns over 6,500 acres of contiguous land after acquiring a total of 2,761 acres in 2020 and 2021 from American Electric Power. The proposed project is estimated to have a footprint of 500-600 acres, with future phases extending across our lands.
“The exact size and layout of the trail system is to be determined and would be part of the planning phase that this grant would fund,” said Dylan Sayre, MWCD trails coordinator. “The suggested plan would be the first phase of a trail system that would extend to over 100 miles of trails in the future.”
MWCD shared with attendees that the current plan would use funds to design and build 10-15 miles of world-class hiking and biking trails. Funding would also be used to construct a trailhead, parking, primitive campgrounds, restrooms, and install infrastructure for the facilities.
Additional MWCD work includes continued conversations with ODNR-DMRM to reclaim structures, such as high walls and open mine shafts. This work would be made possible by utilizing the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program funds in conjunction with AMLER funds to develop the trail facilities. Reclaiming the area will mitigate the environmental and safety hazards left behind by the coal mining operations that were once prevalent in the area. Reclamation will provide the grounds needed to build a quality trail system while making the area safer for others that use the area for other activities such as hunting and fishing.
The grant application for funding is due in September. Should money be awarded, project design and planning could begin as early as 2023.