The community of Mount Hope is located in Fayette County, West Virginia between the cities of Beckley and Oak Hill. Mount Hope has been severely affected by the decline in the coal industry resulting in above average poverty and unemployment. Active Southern West Virginia (Active SWV) recognizes the opportunities and resources available in Mount Hope to improve the health of its residents while attracting tourism and new businesses.
Active SWV has hired Andy Davis a one year position for a Pedestrian, Bike and Trail Coordinator, in partnership with the National Coal Heritage Area Authority – a Regional Umbrella Sponsor for AmeriCorps VISTA.
The VISTA Pedestrian, Bike and Trail Coordinator will engage in the development of a connected network of pedestrian infrastructure whereby both the town’s population and tourist may exercise, walk, run, hike and bike in a safe environment. VISTA efforts will leverage the town’s historical past to attract visitors interested in adventure and cultural tourism. These efforts will create opportunities for the town’s population to become more physically active as well as increase employment to serve both the tourist industry and new businesses attracted to the region.
Specifically, the VISTA will assess the infrastructure needs of the community; develop a project to include safe streets for pedestrians, protected bike lanes, a fitness trail and the establishment of a rail-trail, all in conjunction with the planned Coal Heritage Museum in Mount Hope.
The VISTA will coordinate with regional public and private agencies, local stakeholders, the adjacent Boy Scouts Camp, the New River Regional Development Authority and existing trail projects to build capacity and cooperation for funding, permitting and building the Mount Hope Trail System.
As a result of the VISTA member’s service, Mount Hope will be able to promote its historical assets, attract visitors and new businesses, and improve the health and wellness of its citizens. Research concludes that a happy and healthy community will attract visitors interested in both an active lifestyle and cultural pursuits. The VISTA’s goal of building a connected network of safe streets and trails will transform Mount Hope into an attractive destination, diversify its economy and pull the population out of the cycle of poverty and poor health.
The objective of the assignment:
- The VISTA Pedestrian, Bike and Trail Coordinator will assess Mount Hope’s current infrastructure and create a system of connected walking, biking and hiking trails to improve opportunities for attracting visitors and allow its citizens to sustain a more healthy and active lifestyle.
- The VISTA will build organizational capacity of the City of Mount Hope in order to expand and sustain opportunities for healthy lifestyles while attracting visitors looking for exercise and cultural activities.
- The VISTA will create a sustainable project where increased revenue from visitors and fund raising will cover maintenance of the trail system.
- The VISTA will implement a data collection program to track health statistics in Mount Hope, e.g. obesity, diabetes, and addiction, as well as access to safe venues for individual and group exercise.
The VISTA will work under the supervision of Active Southern West Virginia and its Bike Walk SWV initiative. This initiative seeks to connect the four counties that encompass the New River Gorge Region with a connected network of safe routes and trails.