Wetzel County 4-H received $150,000 from the EQT Foundation to build a new walking trail at their 4-H camp. The ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Nov. 27, 2023 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wetzel County 4-H camp.
This project began construction in April 2023 and was completed by
June, but it was dreamed up well before that.
The Wetzel County 4-H camp sat adjacent to a large area of unused woodlands and was recently deeded 60 acres of that property, but it was hard to access. It was a steep hill on one side and houses on the other, but the West Virginia University Extension team in Wetzel County had a vision that they were determined to make a reality.
Once they had access to the land, the EQT Foundation funded the project to help fill the need for outdoor recreation in the area.
“The values of EQT are trust, teamwork, heart and evolution, and I think this project plays into all of them,” said Ellen Rossi, President of the EQT Foundation. “It’s really about connection to the community and its people and being able to move things forward and bring new opportunities to Wetzel County that will continue to make it thrive.”
To supplement this donation, Wetzel County 4-H also created a challenge on the WVU Day of Giving, where the Wetzel County 4-H Leaders Association would match donations if they received a certain number of gifts on that day. In just one 24-hour period, they raised an extra $10,000 for this project.
Where there used to be only thick forest, there is now a path for residents to get into the woods and connect with nature. There are two and a half miles of walking trails that are open to the public.
“It’s really exciting to see people out there getting outside, being active and enjoying the outdoors. We have seen so much positive response from the community,” said Mollie Toppe, WVU Extension agent in Wetzel County.
This community response is due in part to the fact that this trail is the first of its kind in Wetzel County. People in the area are used to driving out of their home county to access this type of outdoor activity, but now it is right in their backyard.
“When they did the first day of work, Mollie and I both cried a little bit because it was so beautiful,” said Lisa Sidenstricker, WVU Extension program assistant in Wetzel County. “It was like you were walking in a state park somewhere; it doesn’t feel like it’s right beside the 4-H grounds.”
This trail also expands access to outdoor activities and learning opportunities for 4-H’ers. Construction was completed in time for the county 4-H camp this summer, so youths were able to take classes that incorporated the trail, like outdoor cooking and wilderness survival.
Even if youths didn’t take those classes, everyone got to use the trail, going out in groups to build shelters and explore the new addition to their camp. The Wetzel County Teen Leaders Club even got to do community service by maintaining them throughout the summer.
Youths have greater access to outdoor 4-H project books as well, like hiking, survival, bugs, birds and so many more. Now, they all have a place to get outside and conduct their projects, whereas before not every 4-H'er had this kind of access to the outdoors.
The new trail has created many opportunities in the community, but all of the land hasn’t been used yet. In the future, there are hopes to expand the trails to create a system and add even more fun for everyone in the community.
But for now, Toppe and Sidenstricker are content to enjoy the new trails, and they invite everyone to come and see it out for themselves.
“Come visit Wetzel County; come check out our trail. You can even bring your camper. We have a lot to offer – a kayak launch, banquet hall, fishing at the creek and of course, walking or biking on the trail,” Toppe said.
The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
For more information on Wetzel County 4-H, visit https://extension.wvu.edu/wetzel.
If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit extension.wvu.edu or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
CONTACT: Sydney Keener