Shoe Carnival are all on track to open in 2022. Morgantown’s growth can also be seen in the recent addition of an Aquatic Center and track and field facilities at the Mylan Park recreational complex, says Russell Rogerson, president and CEO of the Morgantown Area Partnership economic development organization. “We’re working on expanding the Morgantown Indus- trial Park, we’re launching the runway extension at the airport and creating a 90-acre commerce park. There’s WVU’s construction of a new business school and the growth of WVUMedi- cine—we continue to grow and have opportuni- ties ahead for years to come.” Add great outdoor recreation to all of that, and it’s a winning mix. “So few of the outdoors-centered towns are anchored by a major land grant institution,” Twilley says. “Youth, business, outdoors—it’s the recipe.” ASCEND MORGANTOWN Ascend WV expects to invite up to 50 appli- cants to Morgantown soon—by mid-sum- mer—and to use the experience here to shape roll-outs soon to come in Lewisburg and Shepherdstown. Who will be chosen? “We want people who value community,” Twilley says. “Peo- ple who want to help make us better and be engaged in a positive manner, and people who love the outdoors.” We may start seeing newcomers biking the trails, attending neighborhood association potlucks, and con- tributing at City Council meetings by fall. Fifty new residents is not a big influx for a town of 30,000-ish, but 50 engaged people in a year, or several years in a row, are likely to be noticed. Will it change Morgantown? “These folks will bring more to the community than just a job,” Rogerson says. “They’re going to bring ideas and entrepreneurialism and inno- vation with them. They’re going to add value and diversity to our thought processes as we continue to strive to become a better place.” Twilley likes to quote WVU Chambers College of Business and Economics Dean Javier Reyes on the attractiveness of an out- door lifestyle economy: “Javier says, ‘I’m not an outdoors person, but I love what you all bring to the table because you demand good food, beer and wine, shopping, and culture, and it’s all integrated into the fabric of the community.’” If he’s right, we might expect many more good things to follow. So if you could keep your job and live anywhere at all, where would you live? There are good arguments for staying right here.
HOT ON THE TRAILS The many paddling and climbing experiences we have quick access to in Morgantown are a happy accident of our location near mountains that have rushing rivers and exposed rock formations, and WVU’s Smith Outdoor Eco- nomic Development Collaborative is exploring partnerships to make access to whitewater and climbing routes even better. We have good hiking and biking trails, too—but world-class trails require both interesting terrain and savvy development. To support trail improve- ment, in March, the Smith OEDC hired Richard Edwards, a veteran trail de- veloper with the International Mountain Biking Association who has 20 years’ experience across the U.S. and internationally. He’ll be working across the state, but Morgantown is his initial focus. As it happens, IMBA is just finishing trail planning projects for WVU and for Morgantown, identifying gaps in the existing trail system and opportunities for trail improvements and new trails, and that lets Edwards hit the ground running. “We’re working on immediate implementation of some demonstration projects this year on WVU properties,” says Edwards, now the Smith OEDC’s Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Development Coordinator. “These demon- stration projects are focused on meeting some of the largest identified gaps. One of those would be good-quality beginner trails to meet the needs of the Youth Cycling Coalition that’s starting programs in Morgantown—we need trails that are accessible and achievable so we can have success for that.” Creating these first projects will boost local trail-building capacity. And the trails themselves will demonstrate a greater range of build techniques and trail types than are currently in use in Morgantown, Edwards says—progres- sive jump lines, bike parks, paved pump tracks, bicycle playgrounds, and singletrack sidewalks, for example. These will give him examples to work from as the program advances to other parts of the state. “We want to get some actual models on the ground to further the discussions about future projects and next stages,” he says. “It’s easier to talk about these things if we can get stakeholders to ride them.” He’s excited about the potential. “West Virginia’s terrain makes for iconic natural trails, and they’re often very difficult, especially for mountain bikers,” he says. “If you’re able to ride them, they’re truly special and in a lot of cases really unique. But in terms of getting new people into the sport and sharing awesome trails, other places have built more progressive trail systems with a full spectrum of difficulty and a better on-ramp.” That, along with better information and signage, is a lot of what he looks forward to working on in the coming years. What it means for Morgantown is 5 to 8 miles of new trail and greater trail connectivity this year with an emphasis on training and capacity-building, Edwards says, and 40 to 50 miles of new trail over the coming five years.
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