County denies trail money request

September 13, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission denied a $5,000 funding request Thursday from the Washington Heritage Trail Association because the request wasn't made during county budget hearings earlier this year.

The commissioners voted to send trail association officials a letter stating that the funds had not been included in the county's budget for the current fiscal year, and advising them of the dates for next year's budget proceedings, Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

"I didn't expect it to be turned down, but I do understand they have a process," said WHT Association President Bob O'Connor, who took over as the association's leader on July 1.


O'Connor in August requested $5,000 each from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties to help fund administrative costs related to the operation of the nearly 112-mile long circular trail, which identifies historic George Washington-related landmarks from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to Charles Town, W.Va.

Officials in Jefferson and Morgan counties had not made a decision about the funding request as of Thursday, O'Connor said.

He said county funding is critical for the project's success because the bulk of the federal grants funding the trail project are paid as reimbursements for money already spent.

"The heritage trail is cash poor," O'Connor said. "It's important that the counties come forward with their $5,000 to get us over this hump."

The WHT Association had about $2,894 cash on hand as of June 30, according to a recent financial report. Berkeley and Jefferson counties each contributed $5,000 last year, O'Connor said.

The Federal Highway Administration in May awarded the West Virginia Division of Highway two grants totaling nearly $134,000 for the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byway in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.

The grants - earmarked for a new WHT executive director's salary and to create scenic byways maps and trail guides and produce training materials - represent 80 percent federal reimbursements with the remaining 20 percent to be matched locally with cash or in-kind services, O'Connor said.

Additional grants were secured to pay for trail signage and renovate the old Railroad Station building in downtown Martinsburg for the WHT Interpretive Center, he said.

A $25,000 grant will pay for signs along the trail. The signs have been designed but haven't yet been approved by the state Division of Highways, which is in the process of updating state guidelines, O'Connor said.

A $200,000 federal grant plus $65,000 in matching funds from the city of Martinsburg will fund the renovation of the second- and third-floor of the building for the interpretive center.

The city of Martinsburg will oversee that renovation project in addition to the city's own $312,500 renovation of floors four and five, City Manager Mark Baldwin said Thursday.

He hopes to advertise for bids for architectural engineering services by mid-October, Baldwin said.

The trail association expects to have a new "first-class" Web site funded by a $25,000 grant up and running by the end of the year, O'Connor said.

The Washington Heritage Trail is one of more than two dozen scenic by-ways in West Virginia. The local trail circles the Eastern Panhandle and ties together over 50 sites, many tied to George Washington and his family.

"There's more Washington family buried in these three counties than anywhere in Virginia," O'Connor said.

For more information on the Washington Heritage Trail, visit and click on "Follow Washington's Pathway" or call the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-304-264-8801.

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