Riverwalk Park & Trail System receives praise from Methodist Conference attendees
June 1, 2018
Local residents love the Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone Riverwalk Trail and Park, and as it turns out, some annual visitors love it as well. Mayor David McCauley was recently approached by George Hohmann of the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church to get the backstory on how our beloved trail came about. Hohmann shared that conference attendees love taking walks at the park during their stay at West Virginia Wesleyan College each summer, and he wanted to provide them with the history of the park and trail system. Below, you can read the mayor’s response with the park’s history as well as the article that will be shared with this year’s conference attendees written by Mr. Hohmann. We welcome all the conference goers and hope they will have the opportunity to enjoy our parks again this year. The conference will be in town June 7 -10 at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
ELIZABETH J. “BINKY” POUNDSTONE MEMORIAL RIVER TRAIL
HISTORY & TALKING POINTS – May 29, 2018
I. The first phase of our River Trail was the brainchild of former Streets Commissioner, Pat Long, & the State grant application was submitted in 1996. The first proposed phase included a loop around the Wesleyan College baseball field & practice football field.
II. The City Council approved an agreement & resolution #97-1 on June 7, 1997, authorizing acceptance of $72,800 for Phase I construction. The funding program was through the WV Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways’ Transportation Enhancement Program, & specifically was an ISTEA grant, ISTEA standing for Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Construction started during the late summer in 1997.
III. Mayor Binky Poundstone died on September 6, 2000, & to recognize her 37 years of service to the City, by Resolution 2000-11 renamed the Trail to the Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone Memorial River Trail on September 21, 2000.
IV. On December 21, 2000, the City Council approved an agreement for a second phase, the second loop of the River trail pursuant to Resolution #2000-13, the total cost of the second phase was $28,630 & the City’s participation was $5,726. Construction ensued during 2001.
V. During 2008-09, the City undertook a third phase extension from the second loop of the Trail added in 2001 to Marion Street filling a huge void on the opposite side of the CSX railroad tracks & the Buckhannon River after installing a new storm drain.
VI. In 2009, the City in cooperation with West Virginia Wesleyan College, Streets commissioner Jerry Arnold applied for another grant to realize the Learning Trail segment, the fourth phase of our Trail, adding another 1400’ of paved trail. The major College player was WVWC biology professor, Dr. Kathy Gregg who designed this phase of the trail including signage for indigenous species of plants & trees. This phase of the Trail is located immediately behind WV Split Rail Fence.
VII. The City was successful in its grant application to realize the Learning Trail & work began in 2011 & continued into 2012 & 2013, with the first signs installed in 2014 & the dedication of the Learning Trail & the Tony Gum pedestrian bridge in September 2014, honoring the former longtime mayor & WVWC professor.
VIII. In August of 2016, the Bob Wallace pedestrian bridge was dedicated honoring the former, longtime City Attorney.
IX. During Labor Day weekend of 2017, the Buckhannon Dog Park was dedicated right beside the Buckhannon boat ramp.
X. Further plans for River Trail expansion include construction of a handicap fishing pier, a pavilion & outdoor classroom, & approximately a 2.5 mile extension from Marion Street to Buckhannon-Upshur High School & ultimately to Sago, connecting various mountain bike trails that have been installed there to the trail. The City is cooperating with Arch Coals to realize the latter improvement, & with Dominion Resources to realize the pier & pavilion. The total length of the Buckhannon River is 45.4 miles going all the way into Randolph County & Helvetia in Upshur County. The plan is further to connect downtown to the River Trail near the College campus.
XI. Our River Trail hosted the first RiverFest in August of 2017, & the first Haunted River Trail just before Halloween in October of 2017. During the summer months, Sunday evenings feature music on the river there. These events are all now annual occurrences. Easter Egg hunts & 5K races also regularly occur on our Trail.
XII. Trees were removed recently near the college’s baseball field, & new plantings were realized thanks to city horticulturist Rob Barbor. Since 1996, this area has come to be used by hundreds of citizens every day who enjoy the stunning, seasonal flora realized from the labor of Donnie Tenney, the City’s first horticulturist & Mr. Barbor. Later this year, the City will make storm sewer & sidewalk improvements near the baseball field, & will dedicate the Poundstone-Ellis Legends Plaza (PELP) in collaboration with the College.
Beautiful nature trail is just
steps from Wesleyan campus
By George Hohmann
Some annual Conference attendees may not realize they are steps away from one of the most beautiful nature trails in the Mountain State.
Walk out the Wesley Chapel door and down to the fountain on Camden Avenue. Turn left and in two blocks you’ll arrive at the Riverwalk Trail — a natural oasis that features relaxing views of the Buckhannon River, more than 170 native shrubs, trees and vines, and a level, paved walkway.
“It’s a pretty river with a pretty little trail that happens to accompany it,” said Mayor David McCauley. “There are very few days I’m not on the Riverwalk Trail.”
McCauley recalled that when he started with Buckhannon as city attorney 35 years ago, the area along the river “was a very ugly part of town.
“It was blighted with a lot of ramshackle dwellings,” he said. “I don’t mean to suggest there was Divine intervention, but we had a horrible flood in 1985 that took out a lot of those structures. The college swooped in, acquired a lot of those houses, and went on a major urban renewal project to tear them down.
“Bob Wallace, who taught business law at Wesleyan from 1958 to 1983 and who was my law partner from 1983 to 1994, brought community folks in and they recontoured the area to start developing athletic fields,” McCauley said. “The first softball field was put in by the community, not Wesleyan. Later soccer, lacrosse and the practice football field were added — all borne out of the 1985 flood.”
Pat Long, who was Buckhannon’s street commissioner in 1996, came up with the idea of putting a loop around the baseball and football practice fields. The city received an $80,000 grant from the federal Department of Transportation and in 1997 the first phase of the trail opened.
“In September 2000 Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone, our beloved mayor who had previously served for 30 years as our city recorder, died suddenly,” McCauley said. “I delivered her eulogy in Wesley Chapel. I proposed to City Council that we approve renaming the river trail the Binky Poundstone Riverwalk Trail. There’s a sign by the boat ramp dedicated to her.”
In addition to mentioning people who have played a role in developing the trail and its amenities, signs like the “Tuggle’s Ravine” trail sign were written to elicit a smile. McCauley admits to being the wit behind the signage.
A second loop— around the softball, soccer and lacrosse fields — was added in 2003-2004. “That sort of formed a figure eight,” McCauley said.
In 2009 Dr. Kathy Gregg, an emeritus professor of biology at Wesleyan, worked with Buckhannon Public Works Director Jerry Arnold to secure funding for an extension known as The Learning Trail, which is behind the split rail fence factory.
In late 2016, a group approached McCauley about creating a dog park. It can now be found next to the boat ramp.
“We have other plans,” the mayor said. “We’re working with Dominion Resources to build a handicapped fishing pier and a pavilion suitable for family reunions and an outdoor classroom for the college. We’re working with Arch Coal to extend the walk from Marion Street in Buckhannon all the way out along the river to Buckhannon-Upshur High School, which is about 2.5 miles.”
Buckhannon is one of only two cities in West Virginia with a full-time horticulturist (the other is Morgantown). Because of the work of Donnie Tenney and now Rob Barbor, “you start walking in March and the daffodils are springing up,” McCauley said. “It gets stunning in May, June, July and August. There are red buds and lots of burning bushes. And in September and October it’s just beautiful.”
The trail has become the scene of several special events. “Every other Sunday a live band performs on a Gilligan’s Island-type barge in the middle of the river at the boat dock,” McCauley said. “On any given Sunday evening there might be 200 to 300 people there on lawn chairs.”
Last year there was a haunted river trail before halloween. The second annual River Fest — an appreciation of the Buckhannon River watershed — will be held on Aug. 25. The trail also has become the venue for 5K runs throughout the year.
McCauley said the Riverwalk Trail is a story of “decades upon decades of collaborative effort between the city and the college. So much of what has been accomplished here is because of this ability to work together. It is integral to so much of what we do.”