Organizers say event demonstrates economic potential of completing trail systems
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A tour of rail-trails in and around Morgantown last weekend attracted about 100 riders and support staff from 12 states. Participants left more than just tire tracks according to the event organizers, who report that event spending during the three days totaled more than $38,000 on local hotels, food and services.
The three-day event was Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s (RTC) inaugural West Virginia Rail-Trail Sojourn, and was hosted by the local trails organization, the Mon River Trails Conservancy.
“The Sojourn brought riders to Morgantown from all over America, including Indiana, New York and Connecticut, and only a handful of participants were from West Virginia. In a post-event survey, 90.2 percent of riders said they learned about local attractions that they plan to return to visit. Local restaurants, and the waterfront area, were the two things they found ‘most appealing about Morgantown,’” organizers said. It was noted that the average age of the riders was 61, there were more women then men, and about 63 percent of the riders had an average annual household income of more than $100,000.
Organizers estimate that each Sojourn rider this past weekend spent an average of $121.53 on meals, beverages and snacks from local shops and restaurants, in addition to the food provided by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy which was sourced from local vendors. The estimate on lodging spending was $20,835.
“Although you can tell people that a rail-trail network will attract visitors, and you can show them all the economic data, it isn’t until people actually see bikes parked outside restaurants and hotel rooms filling up that they appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity,” says Ella Belling, executive director of the Mon River Trails Conservancy.
Intended to highlight the benefits and impact of regional trail networks, the Sojourn drew attention to missing links between the Mon River, Caperton and Deckers Creek rail-trails and other rail-trails in West Virginia and Pennsylvania that, if completed, could result in a 180-mile trail.
RTC has hosted a similar annual rail-trail ride in Pennsylvania since 2002. The organization uses the Sojourn to bring attention to trails that have a lot of tourism and recreation potential, but that require a few strategic investments to complete.
Organizers noted that the Sojourn’s target in Pennsylvania over the past decade has been the Great Allegheny Passage. When the first Sojourn was held there, the Great Allegheny Passage was a corridor of disconnected and incomplete trail sections. When Sojourn riders started appearing in great numbers in the neighboring towns and spending money in their businesses, the demand grew for investments to complete the trail in order to attract more trail tourists.
Today, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage generates more than $40 million in direct spending from trail users annually. Many believe that the Morgantown area will be the next rail-trail tourism success story.For more information about the work being done to promote and extend the region’s rail-trail network, contact Ella Belling at [email protected]
The photos can be credited to Jake Lynch/WV Community Development Hub.Caption for Rail-Trail Sojourn 1
On day 1 of the Rail-Trail Sojourn, the visiting cyclists rode the Mon River Trail South and the
Marion County Trail from downtown Morgantown to Prickett’s Fork State Park.
Caption for Rail-Trail Sojourn 2
Riders and tour organizers used the event to draw attention to incomplete sections of the trail system.
MEDIA CONTACTJake Lynch
Director of Network Communications WV Community Development Hub [email protected]
Photos from the Sojourn are available on request by emailing Jake Lynch at [email protected]