Beckley, W.Va., plans to construct path, hires specialist | Journey And Outdoor


The city of Beckley, West Virginia, is planning to build a hiking trail to the New River Gorge National Park and Reserve and has hired an outdoor recreational development specialist to develop Beckley as the “gateway town” to the national park.

Cory Lilly, a native of Raleigh County, has been discontinued. He will partner with Gary Morefield, who started for the city in 2019 and has pioneered miles of trails in the Piney Gorge area over the past five years.

Lilly will be responsible for expanding the Piney Gorge Trail system to the national park at the base of Batoff Mountain, said Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold.

The project may require the city to annex an area between the city limits and the New River.

“These are attributes that could very well fit what we want to achieve to become a gateway city and a hub of gateway cities to New River Gorge National Park,” added Rappold. “So if the possibility of annexation develops from an annexation through our efforts in this direction, then we will certainly pursue this further.”

Rappold said Lilly was pleased with existing relationships with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), the West Virginia University Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC), the West Virginia Land Trust, the Beckley Mill Outdoor Recreation Development, and the West Virginia Trail Alliance will benefit to further develop the Piney Gorge trail system and to advance the Mill Outdoor Recreation Development project, which is in the early stages of development.

Following a brainstorming session by Alderman Tom Sopher (Ward I), who worked with David Sibray, Scott Worley, and others to identify the historical significance of the Alfred Beckley Mill in Piney Gorge to Beckley, the development of the mill site will override the existing walking trails in the Piney Creek Gorge highlight, and it reveals a number of rock formations that are available for climbing.

The first phase is likely to be $ 7-8 million, which is the federal ceiling for such projects, though Rappold said in May the exact number has not yet been set. The NRGRDA executive director Jina Belcher is seeking funding for the project from available federal funds through the offices of US Senator Joe Manchin and US Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Future development of the site will include an amphitheater for the West Virginia theater, the Mayor added. The current amphitheater is located in Grandview Park.

When completed, the project is expected to extend from Beckley to the New River and across to Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County, a distance of approximately 12 miles. Rappold said Lilly will focus on developing six or eleven kilometers of hiking trails to the canyon with support from the West Virginia Land Trust, a statewide nonprofit that works to help preserve and protect the state’s nature.