January 1, 2019
Marshall President Jerome Gilbert discusses the university's new bike share system, Rolling Thunder, on Oct. 19 at the Marshall Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.

It’s been a wild and wonderful year in the outdoors here in the region. As we get out and take those first hikes of the year, let’s remember a few highlights from almost heaven and beyond which happened in 2018.

Recovery Point volunteers renovate museum trails

This fall the Huntington Museum of Art got a helping hand from Recovery Point of Huntington who came over to help work on their trail system. About a dozen men from Recovery Point in Huntington lent a hand renovating the 2 miles of nature trails that wind through the woods behind the Huntington Museum of Art. Volunteers installed handrails and steps on the steeper portions of the trail and repaired soil erosion in trouble spots caused by water and traffic. The work is funded through a $2,500 grant the museum received through the Great Kanawha Resource Conservation and Development Council. The four trails are interconnected on 40 acres of wooded museum property. The terrain ranges from flat to steep, and the trails are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Museum staff also regularly schedule guided nature tours through the woods. The tours last about 90 minutes and are available throughout the year, weather permitting. To schedule a tour, contact Cindy Dearborn at cdearborn@hmoa.org.

State Tourism announces new marketing campaign

State Tourism Commissioners signed off Wednesday, Oct. 24, on a $5.1 million state tourism advertising campaign to cover spring, summer and fall 2019. Devised by BVK, the Milwaukee-based advertising firm that created the current “Almost Heaven” ad campaign, the 2019 campaign will focus on the 25-54 age demographic, prioritizing out-of-state markets with high percentages of past visitors, and for the first time, reaching out to more affluent households in those markets, those with household incomes of $100,000 or more. Tourism also began a partnership with Bethesda Game Studios to promote West Virginia locations featured in the new “Fallout 76″ video game does not involve any financial payment by either party.

Appalachian Boarding Company opens shop

Appalachian Boarding Company, owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Marshall graduate, Evan and Brooke Young, was formed in 2016, but really took off in 2017. In 2018, they moved their SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) operation over to a shop at Pullman Square with a grand opening in November. Located only a block from the Ohio River, the Shop began classes and tours on the River, as well as fitness classes, and regular events such as a What’SUP Wednesdays that includes a paddle followed by an open mic night at the shop that features clothes, boards and a wide variety of gear. The company schedules and posts events to its Facebook page. They also can cater to groups for special events, classes or tours. For more information about Appalachian Boarding Company, visit the website www.AppBoCo.com or visit their Facebook page for a complete list of upcoming events.

Huntington gets walking

In 2018, the Greater Huntington Walks launched July 17 with a collective goal of all participants walking enough miles to equal a trip to the moon by the end of 2018. As of Dec. 11, more than 2,468 registered members had walked to the moon and back 2.8 times.

Greater Huntington Walks has announced its new collective walking goal of 5 million miles for 2019.

“The goal of Greater Huntington Walks is to show that we are a very vibrant and active community by getting people walking. And we got off to a great start in 2018,” said Andy Fischer, chair of the Greater Huntington Walks committee. “Now we want to do bigger and better things and set the bar even higher next year by walking 5 million miles.” The Greater Huntington Walks committee is currently planning walking events for the first quarter and the “Destination Vacation” challenge. Information on future events can be found on the group’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/Greater-HuntingtonWalks. To register for Greater Huntington Walks, visit www.GreaterHuntington-Walks.com.

Marshall University starts a bike share program

On Oct. 19, Marshall University and Gotcha Bikes, rolled out a new bike share program, The Rolling Thunder, in Huntington. Marshall students, faculty, and staff will have access to 30 bikes at 3 hubs around campus, available for 24/7 use.

The Rolling Thunder system will include 30 GPS-enabled 3-speed gear pedal bikes with Marshall University branding. The hubs will be located at the Drinko Library, Harless Dining Hall, and Marshall Recreation Center. Marshall students and staff can access bikes for free for the first two hours per day and $5 per hour after the first two hours.

“Gotcha’s bike share system offers a transportation solution that is easy to access, good for the environment, promotes physical activity and exercise, and keeps costs down compared to building more parking lots and garages,” said Amy Parsons-White, M.S.; Sustainability Coordinator, Marshall University. “Our partnership with Gotcha assists in Marshall’s goal for becoming a healthier, more sustainable, active campus.”

For more information on the Marshall Rolling Thunder Bike Share, visit Gotchabike.com/Marshall or follow us on social using the hashtag #Marshall-RollingThunder.

WVDNR renintroduces elk

Fifty Elk transported from Arizona now officially call West Virginia “home.” Gov. Jim Justice and Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel welcomed the animals to the Mountain State on May 15 during a public ceremony in Logan County.

The free-ranging elk were captured in late January and held near Flagstaff, Arizona, for disease testing, before being transported in early March to a holding pen near Holden, West Virginia. They will be held another few weeks to comply with federal disease testing guidelines and to allow them to acclimate to their new environment. The Arizona elk will join 35 other elk previously acquired from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky.

Elk were once native and common in West Virginia but are believed to have been extirpated from the state more than 140 years ago. Legislation enacted in 2015 authorized DNR to begin an active elk restoration plan. With the acquisitions of elk from Arizona and Kentucky, and with generous donations from interested partners and the work of countless volunteers, the project is now fully underway. Read more about the WVDNR’s Elk Management Plan at www.wvdnr.gov/Publications/Draft_Elk_Plan.pdf.

Chief Logan begins elk tours

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources led 20 guided tours of the state’s elk reintroduction site in Logan County in September and October. Public tours started at Chief Logan Lodge and include a visit to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area, where elk from Kentucky and Arizona were released in 2016 and 2018.

West Virginia’s last native elk was seen in Webster County in 1875. About 90 free-roaming elk make up the growing herd. The tour is four hours and includes a program about the elk, their habits, habitat, and the challenges and future of elk management, led by Chief Logan State Park naturalist and biologist Lauren Cole.

For reservations, call Chief Logan Lodge at 304-855-6100. For ticket and tour questions, send an email to chiefloganlodge@wv.gov. Chief Logan Lodge is near Chief Logan State Park in Logan County. The facility features a 75-room lodge, restaurant and conference center.

Beech Fork State Park announces foundation

The future Beech Fork State Park Foundation held its first meeting Aug. 2.

The foundation is a group of dedicated volunteers to the conservation and recreation of Beech Fork State Park. Our mission is to support Beech Fork State Park by volunteering time, skills, and resources to promote the conservation, recreation, and use the park and its facilities. We work in partnership with Beech Fork State Park and the WVDNR on projects such as trail, park, and facilities maintenance, repair, and improvement, natural habitat preservation, and special park events. Our members are varied individuals all with one common goal of advocating the needs of our park. We welcome and challenge everyone to become a part of our foundation to improve our park.

For more information, go online at www.bfspf.org, www.facebook.com/bfspf, and by email beechforkspf@gmail.com.

National Park Foundation announces 20 grants

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails and National Wild & Scenic Rivers systems in 2018, the National Park Foundation announced 20 grants to enhance the country’s national trails and wild and scenic rivers and provide increased public access.

New River Gorge National River (West Virginia) received a great to connect local communities to recreational opportunities along trails and waterways through Get Active in the Park, a partnership between local nonprofit Active Southern West Virginia and the National Parks of Southern West Virginia including New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and Gauley River National Recreation Area. All programs are free of charge, beginner-level, and designed to show people how capable they really are of being active outdoors.

New cabins at Chief Logan

In m id-July, T he West Virginia State Parks system dedicated three new cabins at Chief Logan State Park in Logan County today. The ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center was attended by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources staff, local officials and several members of the public.

The cabins are Chief Logan State Park’s first and provide spectacular views of the park. They cost just over $2 million to complete.

Each cabin features four bedrooms, large living areas and all the modern conveniences overnight guests expect, making them perfect for vacations, reunions, weddings and getaways. West Virginia products are featured inside, including original artwork by state artists, Homer Laughlin china and Wild Mountain Soap products. Rentals range from $254 to $329 per night. One of the cabins is ADA accessible.

For more information about Chief Logan State Park, facilities and activities, visit wvstateparks.com/park/chieflogan-state-park or call the park at 304-792-7125.

Ski resorts enjoy epic March, Snowhoe getting snow guns

March was an epic month for West Virginia ski resorts as more than seven feet of snow fell in the mountains.

Also in March, Snowshoe Mountain announced it will be investing nearly $4M in upgrades to its snowmaking and grooming technology this summer. Resort officials anticipate that the investment will allow them to open significantly more of their ski trails by early December and maintain a high-quality snow surface throughout the ski season; all while greatly reducing the mountain’s carbon footprint.

The new snow guns and seasonable temps allowed Snowshoe to open before Thanksgiving. Also in November, Huntington native Patti Duncan was named as the new president and COO or Chief Operating Officer of Snowshoe

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park renovating campgrounds

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park started major campground renovations in 2018.

The equestrian sites and 20 primitive sites were converted to full hookup RV sites. Another 25 sites are having electric power converted to 50 AMP service. This project was initiated due to the increasing popularity of Greenbo Lake’s campground and the requests of guests for improved service.

This updating of amenities is part of the Kentucky State Parks’ “Refreshing the Finest” campaign, an $18 million effort to make safety and other improvements at the parks.

Equestrian sites and primitive sites at Greenbo Lake are closed for the remainder of the year. Other sites remain open through Nov. 1, 2017. The campground was closed during winter and through part of the year as the renovations were completed.

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park is on KY 1, 18 miles north of Interstate 64 from the Grayson exit, or 8 miles south of U.S. 23, the Country Music Highway, on KY 1. Greenbo Lake features the Jesse Stuart Lodge, with 36 rooms, and Anglers’ Cove Restaurant. The park has a 225-acre lake for boating and fishing, and 25 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Paddling picks up

There was lots of great news for area paddlers as kayaking, SUP and other paddle sports grew.

The Tourism Department of the State of West Virginia awarded the non-profit river restoration organization, The Coal River Group, the Spirit of West Virginia tourism award in 2018.

The group put together a Flatwater Heaven marking campaign that pulled in towns along the 88 miles of the Coal River’s four-county area.

The CRG’s signature fund raising event — the 12-mile annual Tour De Coal Community float brought in more than 2,000 people to the rivers for the single day event in June of 2018. The event has grown so much that It is now one of the Largest Flatwater Events in the nation. The group also helped organize Yak Fest with Tour De Coal, which together brought in more than 6,000 people to St. Albans.

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