Work done by a 10-person crew of volunteers from the Kansas state parks system helped make possible the reopening on Friday of a flood-damaged 3.5-mile section of the Greenbrier River Trail north of Caldwell.
The Kansas trail repair crew arrived with their own tools, equipment and vehicles, and spent a week clearing rocks, trees and other slide debris from the trail and its right-of-way, according to West Virginia State Parks Chief Sam England.
Linda Lanterman, director of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, called England shortly after widespread flooding swept through the state in late June, offering to do anything she could to help with flood damage repair. The state parks chief said he initially thanked Lanterman for her concern and offer of assistance, but declined to take her up on her offer.
“Polite offers are sometimes made and often it’s difficult to know when to accept or to appreciate the concern,” England said. But shortly after her initial call, Lanterman called back and said “Really, we have a crew ready to come and work,” England said. “We knew then that Kansas was the real deal,” and the offer of the 10-person trail crew was accepted.
The 78-mile rail trail was among the most heavily damaged units of the state park system during last month’s flooding. While the trail parallels the Greenbrier River, most flood damage along the scenic pathway came from rain-swollen side streams depositing massive amounts of rock on the trailbed, washing out culverts, and triggering landslides, according to England.
The trail remains closed from its southern terminus near Caldwell to a point 3.5 miles to the north, where a temporary parking lot provides access to the 3.5-mile stretch of trail that reopened on Friday. A series of washouts has yet to be repaired from Mile Marker 7 at the end of the newly reopened trail segment to Mile Marker 13 near Anthony, where a 400-foot-long, 150-foot-high rock slide blocks the trail and could take several months to clear, according to Mark Wylie, district administrator for the state parks system.
North of the Anthony slide, the trail is open to its northern terminus in Cass, giving trail users about 65 miles of uninterrupted riding and hiking.
The seven man, three woman Kansas trail repair team was led by two state park superintendents and included seasonal staffers and AmeriCorps workers who volunteered for the detail.
“We are grateful for all the help the Kansas state parks crew provided, along with volunteers from West Virginia,” said Wylie. “It’s an amazing response that expresses how important trails, hiking and state parks are to the public.”
The Kansas trail crew, which departed for home earlier this week, stayed at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, with Kansas State Parks picking up the tab for meals. During their stay, the crew also visited nearby Beartown, Watoga and Droop Mountain Battlefield state parks.
England credited the National Association of State Park Directors with getting the word out about West Virginia flood damage and providing the contacts that led to the Kansas trail crew coming to West Virginia. He said the Sunflower State’s assistance was “a genuine demonstration of dedication to public recreation across state boundaries.”
Reach Rick Steelhammer at email@example.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.