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Rail trail could have a new future

The Panhandle Rail Trail is a true recreational asset, not only for the Weirton area, but for the entire region.

Beginning just within the Weirton city limits, the trail follows an old rail line on a path through northern Brooke County, across the Pennsylvania state line and into communities such as Burgettstown and McDonald where it connects with a network of other trails stretching through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and more.

It has sometimes been rough riding, though. Issues with the trail’s surface in West Virginia have caused difficulties both for users and caretakers. That’s why the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation is working to raise funds to eventually pave its approximately four-mile section of the trail.

The board recently set aside $10,000 of its own funding, and was provided an additional $10,000 from the Brooke County Commission. Requests also have been made to Weirton Council and the Hancock County Commission for similar allotments, and an appropriations request of $125,000 has been made to the office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

Park officials believe if all that funding comes through, it could take care of about half the distance.

Grants also have been sought, but those aren’t surefire and, even if approved, sometimes take years to implement depending on their source.

The trail had a layer of crushed limestone installed 16 years ago. More recently, there has been a push for slag to be used. That has created additional challenges, as officials note pieces of glass have been found mixed in with the slag creating a danger for users. Pavement would eliminate many of the current issues and be a longer-term surface.

It’s going to take time to raise all the funds necessary, but we believe this will provide a bright new future for the Panhandle Trail, opening the doors to new and old users alike.

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