West Virginians have always known that our state parks and rail trails are special places, and now we have a national designation
to prove it! The Greenbrier River Trail is a Millennium Legacy Trail. Nominated by the state, this 79 mile long trail is one of 50 trails nationwide to win the award in October, 1999.
The slogan of the national program is “Honor the past-imagine the future.” Millennium Trails is a partnership between the White House Millennium Council, U.S. Department of Transportation and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in cooperation with other agencies and organizations. It will recognize and support key trails across the country as a legacy for future generations.
At 80 miles long, the Greenbrier River Trail is the longest rail trail in the state. Passing through incredibly beautiful mountains, the trail follows the course of the river from Caldwell in Greenbrier County to Cass in Pocahontas. While today’s trail passes through mountains and agricultural valleys, yesterday’s C&O railroad passed through lumber towns with sawmills at Denmar, Watoga and Spice Run and bustling towns like Ronceverte and Marlinton as well as farming communities like Spring Creek and Beard. Restored depots at Clover Lick and Marlinton once hummed with freight and passengers instead of bicyclists and tourists.
The Greenbrier River Trail is marking its centennial year in 2000. One hundred years ago, during the logging boom, the first train rolled in to Marlinton on October 26, 1900. There was a roast ox dinner, polo game, jousting tournament, football game, a ball and coronation of the queen of love and beauty (!), and a balloon ascension at night. This year, to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the railroad, communities along the trail will celebrate the rich history of the area.
On April 29, Marlinton will host the thirteenth annual Great Greenbrier River Race, a relay race for bicycle, canoe and runner. This family-oriented event has a reputation for famiy-oriented fun, with divisions for teens, families, women’s teams and some great prizes. The last weekend in June, Hillsboro hosts the Little Levels Heritage Fair, Cass Homecoming takes place, and Allegheny Echoes music workshops and festival come to Snowshoe. The thirty-fourth annual Pioneer Days in Marlinton will be held July 6-9. September 30th brings the Autumn Harvest festival to Marlinton.
But the grand finale of celebrations will be on October 21, with a re-creation of the day the first train came to Marlinton. Plans are to hold a gala ball in Marlinton’s newly-restored Opera House, and to have tournament games at Stillwell Park. Actors representing historical figures will give speeches about the impact of the train on the area, and a hot air balloon will ascend to mark the beginning of the next hundred years of the Greenbrier River Trail.
This spring, a new map of the trail will be ready to give to visitors, and new signs and trail heads are under development for visitors’ convenience. Plans are in the works for an improved trail head in Cass and for trailside parking at Beard and at Buckeye. A new website, maintained by the Greenbrier River Trail Association, is online at www.greenbrierrivertrail.com. Pocahontas Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains a site at www.pocahontas.org and West Virginia Rails to Trails is at www.wvrtc.or