A world-class mountain biking trail system in West Virginia could pay huge dividends to Winchester and Frederick County.
The Winchester-Frederick County Tourism Board on Thursday agreed to write a letter supporting the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council‘s bid to win a federal grant that would cover 80% of the $3.5 million cost to complete construction of an approximately 35-mile mountain biking trail system in Cacapon Resort State Park near Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
“We would anticipate notification [of acceptance or denial] in March, April or May,” David Deamer, implementation coordinator for the Martinsburg, West Virginia-based Planning and Development Council, said of the competitive tourism grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Justin Kerns, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it makes sense for the local Tourism Board to support the project because cyclists who use the trail may need hotels. Those are rare in Berkeley Springs but can be found in abundance in Winchester and Frederick County.
“It’s right on the border [of northern Frederick County] and would bring us lots of people,” Kerns said. “It’s absolutely going to help us.”
Winchester resident Mark Hoyle, who has been a leading advocate for developing the trail system since work began in 2017, told The Winchester Star in August 2020: “This grew from a simple plan to build a few trails to the park designating 1,000 acres to mountain biking when they saw the increased visitation from riders.”
So far, work on the trail has been funded by a series of grants and allocations from the local government of Morgan County, West Virginia.
If the federal EDA grant is approved, Deamer said it will take “a few years” to finish implementation of the mountain biking trail and have it recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) as a destination-worthy course.
According to the IMBA website, trails that it endorses through its Model Trails Program are designated as either Ride Centers or Epics. The Cacapon course aspires to become a Ride Center.
“The Ride Center designation represents IMBA’s recognition of large-scale mountain bike facilities that offer something for every rider,” the website states. “From backcountry adventures to shuttle-served gravity trails, and from expert-only to family-friendly, you’ll be able to ride for days and encounter the best mountain biking has to offer.”
Currently, the closest Ride Center to Cacapon Resort State Park is about 100 miles away in Harrisonburg.
Deamer said there are no firm estimates as to how many cyclists would use an IMBA-designated trail in Cacapon State Park, but economic studies have shown that similar courses in West Virginia and Alabama attract thousands of visitors per year.
The trail in Cacapon would also be capable of hosting competitive mountain biking events such as timed enduro races, he said, which would bring even more visitors to the region.
“It would be an economic development stimulator for the entire area,” Deamer said.