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New rule opens New River Gorge trails to bicycling

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sixty-five miles of existing trails and 40 miles of planned trails will be open permanently to use by bicyclists in the New River Gorge National River, thanks to a new regulation that takes effect at the end of January.

Use of bicycles in units of the National Park Service is generally prohibited unless park managers follow special procedures, including environmental assessments and public hearings, to open designated trails for cyclists. Managers at New River Gorge National River initiated such procedures in 2009.

Once in effect, the new regulation may make New River Gorge National River the National Park Service unit with the most trail mileage open to cyclists in the nation, said Jamie Fields, the park's outdoor recreation planner.

Many of the existing New River Gorge trails included in the list covered by the new regulation were already legally being used by cyclists temporarily through a process known as the superintendent's compendium.

The new National Park Service regulation will make bike use on the trails permanent, except for possible temporary closures ordered by the park superintendent to address safety, wildlife or environmental concerns.

All New River Gorge trails designated as open to biking are also open to hikers and runners, Fields said.

Notice of the new regulation was forwarded to the Federal Register on Monday. After notice of the proposed regulation is published in the Federal Register, it becomes law after 30 days.

Existing trails included in the regulation are:

Hawks Nest Connector, 3.5 miles; Fayetteville Trail, 4 miles; Park Loop, 1.1 miles; Timber Ridge, 1 mile; Kaymoor, 8.6 miles; Arrowhead, 13 miles; Craig Branch, 2.4 miles; Long Point (except the last 0.2 miles closest to Long Point vista), 1.4 miles; Keeneys Creek Rail Trail, 3 miles; Headhouse, 0.5 miles; Tipple, 0.5 miles; Seldom Seen, 0.3 miles; Nuttalburg Town Loop Connector, 0.3 miles; Brooklyn Mine, 2.7 miles; Southside, 7 miles; Rend, 3.4 miles; Stone Cliff, 2.7 miles; Terry Top, 1.7 miles; Little Laurel, 2.6 miles; and Glade Creek, 5.6 miles.

Planned trails not yet constructed but designated for bicycle use include:

Garden Ground Stacked Loop, 33 miles; Mud Turn, 2.8 miles; Panther Branch Connector, 3 miles; and Brooklyn Miners Connector, 0.8 miles.

More information on trails and biking opportunities in the New River Gorge National River is available at www.nps.gov/neri under the "plan your visit" tab.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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