By Jean A. Flanagan, Moorefield Examiner
MOOREFIELD, W.Va. — The Lost River Trails Coalition reads like a Who’s Who of competitive cycling, not just in the Shenandoah Valley and Potomac Highlands, but the world as well. Names like Jeremiah Bishop, Colby Waller, Ethan Gruber and Jay Moglia give the group world-class credibility as well as a wealth of knowledge and expertise in all things related to mountain and road biking.
The group organized last year under the auspices of the Hardy County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Lost River State Park.
“The CVB Board has committees, one of which is Special Projects,” said CVB Director Michele Mouré-Reeves. “We began looking at opportunities to help develop bike trails at the Lost River State Park.”
In 2018, John and Vivian Knepper donated 227 acres of land to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources for the “use and benefit of the Lost River State Park.” The property adjoins the north end of the park.
“As a member of the CVB Board, we talked about ways we could expand recreational opportunities at the park,” said Mike Foster, superintendent of the LRSP.
Those conversations turned into a focus to convert the generous donation into a system of mountain biking trails, which in turn led to the formation of the Lost River Trails Coalition.
The LRTC has two main goals, according to competitive cyclist Colby Waller.
“We want to get into the park and work on the existing trails,” he said. “We want to develop a system of trails on the new property. There is a ton of potential there.”
“The donation of the land started the process,” said Jay Moglia, owner and operator of the Raw Talent Ranch, a cycling-based retreat center located outside Mathias.
Moglia has been operating Raw Talent Ranch since 2005 as a mountain getaway with varying levels of cycling tours. Visitors can spend a leisurely weekend with 10-mile jaunts around Helmick Rock or practice for an upcoming competition with a 100-mile loop ride around Hardy County.
“Michele contacted some of us and we met last January with Mike at the park,” Moglia said. “There are trails at the park designated as bike trails, but we wanted something rideable for everyone.”
Although the CVB’s focus is tourism, Mouré-Reeves is aware the LRSP is a community asset and appreciates that the existing community will benefit from any improvements.
“Creating something just for tourists doesn’t make sense,” she said. “All along, we’ve seen this as a community project. We’re looking to build trails that are easily accessed by the community. We already have world-class riders in the community. We want to expand that opportunity.”
Foster also sees the park as an asset for the local community.
“We have always promoted getting outside, along with the benefits of exercise, to the local community,” he said. “The park offers a variety of opportunities for families to do things together.”
“The LRTC had a slow roll-out last year because of COVID,” Waller said. “But we have a lot of support from the CVB, from the park and from the community. We’ve been meeting virtually and last time we met, we elected officers.”
Moglia was elected President. Ethan Gruber, a world-class cyclist with family ties to Hardy and Hampshire counties, was elected Secretary. Waller is treasurer.
LRTC has a Facebook page with more than 120 followers.
“We’re looking at April for a day to get into the park,” Waller said. “We’re looking for volunteers to work on the trails.”
Foster said the LRSP has two bike trails – the East Ridge Trail and the Covey Cove Trail. He’s anxious to work with the LRTC.
“The coalition has a variety of talent,” he said. “They work with other parks on their bike trails. They are experts on riding and know what is necessary to create and maintain a system of trails.”
Of course, funding is crucial to developing a new system of trails and the CVB is working on that aspect. “There’s some grant funding available for those types of projects and we are pursuing those grants,” Mouré-Reeves said.
Both Moglia and Waller are adamant that the LRTC is looking at a long-term commitment to the project.
“Down the road, we’re looking at a website and email list,” Waller said. “Right now, we use Facebook to get the word out about work day schedules. We want to be the organization that manages these trails for a long time.”
Mouré-Reeves said, long-range, she can envision a Potomac Highlands Cycling Center in Hardy County, similar to the one in Pocahontas County. “I’m really excited about the potential,” she said.
The LRTC is also looking down the road to the next generation of cycling enthusiasts. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association promotes high school mountain bike riding in the U.S. NICA develops mountain biking programs for student athletes.
The West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League is geared to middle and high school students and hosts clinics, group rides, races and other activities.
South Fork resident Tom Burgess was looking into opportunities to engage students at Moorefield High and East Hardy High schools.
“I was looking around for funding for bikes,” Burgess said. “If we could start out with 10 bikes at each school, it would be great.”
“When we have a tour, I see the looks on the kids’ faces, sitting on their BMX bikes, when we pass them on the road,” Moglia said. “I’ve always looked to engage kids. Once you get kids on the right kind of bike, there’s a camaraderie that exists. They encourage each other, they help each other.”
With all of the excitement, expertise and encouragement, it will be great to watch how the Lost River Trails Coalition expands the mountain biking opportunities in Hardy County.