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Carriage Trail now part of national system

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just in time for National Trails Day on Saturday, Charleston has become home to one of the country's newest national recreational trails.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis announced Thursday that the Carriage Trail below Sunrise mansion is one of 54 trails added to the National Trails System -- the only new one in West Virginia.

"Mostly it's an honor," said Mary Stanley, a member of the Carriage Trail committee that manages the trail for the city of Charleston and a tireless trail promoter.

The designation also provides national exposure for the trail through the National Trails website.

"We're always looking for ways to publicize the city of Charleston and Carriage Trail," she said. "This is kind of a stamp of approval we can use to tout the trail. They'll be sending us some signs that we can post. This is a way to promote -- not just for us, but for visitors. Anybody who consults the National Trails website can find information about the trail.

"If they're planning a trip, they can find a list of trails they know are safe. They can see whether you can use a mountain bike, how long it is, whether there are any facilities."

Nationally, more than 1,150 trails covering more than 13,650 miles already have been named to the national system. There are eight national trails or trail systems in West Virginia, ranging from the mile-long Whispering Spruce trail in the Monongahela National Forest to the 300-mile Potomac River Water Trail that starts in the Mountain State and ends at Chesapeake Bay.

Stanley said she prepared the National Trail application for the Carriage Trail after learning about the program about a year ago. "The application had to be submitted by November and it was. I put the application together, got a few letters of support, including Representative [Shelley Moore] Capito, and then we sat around and waited."

The Carriage Trail provides instant relief to frazzled downtown office workers, Stanley said.

"There are not too many cities where you can go from downtown a few minutes and be in the woods," she said. "I think that's a special thing."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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