CAMBRIDGE – Muskingum Watershed Conservancy district officials met August 22 with stakeholders including elected officials, economic development officials, trail groups and state and local officials to discuss the possibility of creating a network of world class trails in the area.
The district is seeking funding from the Abandoned Mining Lands Economic Revitalization Grant Program funds to build a network of trails on its Wills Creek property located in Coshocton County. If funding is granted through the Mineral Resources Management Division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, officials plan to convert the abandoned mining lands into an area that the public can safely use for Hobbies.
This network of trails will also bring economic development to surrounding communities.
“Outdoor recreation is a growing industry across the country, and our region is no exception,” said Craig Butler, executive director of the MWCD. “We are working to diversify outdoor recreation opportunities and believe that this proposed trail system, along with the Bailey Trail in Chauncey and the trails on/near our lands in Ashland and Richland Counties will become a triangle of world-class trails, attracting families from all over. the region and the country to enjoy it.”
This first meeting provided participants with a better understanding of the district’s proposed 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. It is estimated that the proposed project will have a footprint of between 500 and 600 acres, with future phases extending onto our lands.
“The exact size and layout of the trail network needs to be determined and would be part of the planning phase that this grant would fund,” said Dylan Sayre, MWCD trail coordinator. “The suggested plan would be the first phase of a trail network that would expand to over 100 miles of trails in the future.”
Plans call for the funds to be used to design and build between 10 and 15 miles of world-class hiking and biking trails. Funding would also be used to build a trailhead, parking lot, primitive campsites, washrooms, and install infrastructure for facilities.
Additional MWCD work includes ongoing conversations with ODNR-DMRM to recover structures, such as high walls and open pits. This work would be made possible by using funds from the Abandoned Mining Lands Program in conjunction with AMLER funds to develop trail facilities. Reclaiming the area will mitigate the environmental and safety risks left behind by the coal mining operations that once prevailed in the area. The reclamation will provide the land needed to build a network of quality trails while making the area safer for others to use for other activities such as hunting and fishing.
The grant application for funding is due this month. If funds are granted, design and planning for the project could begin as early as next year.