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Despite pandemic, Ohio Valley Trail Partners still pedaling away

PEDALING AWAY — Cyclists participate in the Ohio Valley Trail Partner’s annual Wheeling Heritage Trail Bicycle Tour fundraiser near Wheeling’s waterfront in 2019. The event was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and while organizers hope to hold it this year sometime in the fall, plans remain on hold pending the local status of the outbreak. -- Contributed

WHEELING — While the pandemic has created challenging times for the Ohio Valley Trail Partners organization, it continues advocating for local trails in Ohio Valley communities through its fundraising efforts.

The organization’s fundraising has enabled it to maintain and improve the region’s existing trails while encouraging more people to use them, Ohio Valley Trail Partners President Doug Wayt said. It also has allowed the group to buy trail amenities and complete projects around the area. That includes repairing and painting eight trail bridges, placing multiple bike racks around the area, and installing bike repair stations next to WesBanco Arena and near Warwood.

“Little things like that we are doing to improve our own trail,” Wayt said, adding that the city of Wheeling has also been tremendous in taking care of the local trail. “The city is now seeing what trails can do for our community.”

The organization’s annual Wheeling Heritage Trail Bicycle Tour, which was to coincide with the 2021 Ogden Wellness Weekend on Memorial Day weekend, has been canceled due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19, Wayt said. The tour, which has followed the local distance race on Sunday for years, has been the group’s primary yearly fundraiser.

“Over the years it has changed, but we average anywhere from 250 to 300 riders from about six states,” Wayt said. He said the organization may still reschedule the live event for the fall season only if conditions permit. Wayt hopes to make an announcement by late summer or early fall. The group held a “virtual bicycle tour” last fall which involved participants riding at their own pace.

“We certainly have goals in mind,” Wayt said. “We’re hoping to be part of the old Aetnaville Bridge replacement, because we’re trying to connect into Ohio.”

Wayt said the group is still working hand in hand with the Brooke Pioneer Trail association to connect several miles of trail in Brooke County. He said they currently have a grant for the research and design on that section of trail but not for the construction yet.

“That’s going to take funding,” Wayt said. “But we want to encourage people to get out. We’re helping with the signage to connect the trail.

Wayt said Ohio Valley Trail Partners, which formed in 2006, celebrate the history of the region and how trails play a role in that history. In addition, the group recognizes the need to support wellness in the region using trails and it continue to promote new trail development. He said the group continues to attract new members through its website, ohiovalleytrailpartners.org. Smaller groups of members meet up monthly for trail rides between April and November.

“The COVID (pandemic) has brought more people out to trails because they are tired of being penned up in their houses,” Wayt said.

He added that he is seeing a much larger number of people using the trails since the onset of the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of people out there now,” he said, “some wearing masks, who are walking, who are running, hiking, or biking, who weren’t there before.”

Wayt said Ohio Valley Trail Partners is a 501 tax-exempt nonprofit organization for anyone who is wishing to donate toward the group’s mission. Their address is: Ohio Valley Trail Partners, PO Box 2001, Wheeling, W.Va. 26003.

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