The "Rail-Trail Connector" project, that will link the Allegheny Highlands Trail from Highland Park to the Elkins Depot, will be moving forward to its design phase. Robbie Morris, Highlands Trail Foundation member, announced Thursday that the West Virginia Division of Highways has given its approval to allow the project to move forward.
"We are excited it has reached this phase and thrilled we have the go ahead to get this project started," Morris said. "Originally the Division of Highways was to administer the project, but it has been turned over to the Randolph County Development Authority."
Morris said this is the first step in the final phase of the trail that will connect the Elkins Depot to the Parsons Depot.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Highlands Trail Foundation member Robbie Morris shares ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ Thursday evening at the Elkins Depot. Morris said officials have received approval to proceed with the design phase of the ‘Rail-Trail Connector’ project that will connect the Allegheny Highlands Trail from Highland Park on Route 219 to the Elkins Depot.
"Tourism is important, and this will add to the impressive inventory of items to enhance tourism in the area," Morris said. "The first thing we will do is bring together the stakeholders to talk about the preferred design for bringing the trail into the Elkins Depot."
The goals of the trail are that it be safe, accessible and scenic according to Morris.
"These goals are the characteristics we want the designer to incorporate into our plan," he said.
Morris said the plan is to then advertise and take bids for an architect in the spring. He said when the design is complete, it will need to pass an environmental review, a historical review and the Division of Highways review.
"The Randolph County Development Authority will monitor the construction," Morris said.
Highlands Trail Foundation president Karen Carper said she is thrilled to see the project moving forward.
"In 1995 when the Highlands Trail Foundation started, this depot was empty," Carper said. "Bringing the trail to the Elkins Depot will open up many opportunities for tourism. We want to thank the Randolph County Development Authority for their continued support and commitment. They have sponsored the Highlands Trail Foundation since 1995. We have a longstanding relationship with them and are very grateful for that."