Cumberland Times-News

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July 16, 2014

Mineral County could promote river tourism

KEYSER, W.Va — Delegate Gary Howell is suggesting a float day in Mineral County on the North Branch of the Potomac River that could be used to help promote river tourism.

“Keyser, of course, under the new (Memorial) bridge has river access for boats. If we can get something in Piedmont to put them in, you have got about four to four and a half miles of river,” said Howell. “We all remember how bad the river used to be. The river is cleaned up, there are fish in it, people are taking advantage of it and we really do have pretty good places to access the river.”

Terry Liller, president of the Mineral County Development Authority, liked the idea and stated, “Anything we can do to promote the economy but it also promotes the PR aspect for the area. People are so used to that river being contaminated that they are slow to embrace that river is a real asset now.” 

Howell sent letters to Piedmont Mayor Leon Garland and Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower suggesting that river access be made available in Piedmont. Howell also sent a letter to Leonard Colelli, president of Potomac State College, to see if the lower farm is available for a third access point to the river. He also suggested that a meeting be set up between the two cities, the county and Potomac State College.

Being down river has its advantages for the county because when Jennings Randolph Lake and Savage River have their water releases it raises the water levels, according to Howell.

“There is the possibility we would have more days to use the river at higher levels. I think we can promote that. Anything we can do to bring in economic development, I think that would be a great thing,” said Howell.

Liller suggested that Rex Riffle, director of Mineral County Parks and Recreation, be included in the meeting because he is very knowledgeable when it comes to white water releases at Barnum.

Someone with Region 8 recently spoke at a region meeting and indicated there is funding available, according to Ridgeley Mayor Lynn Carr. Carr suggested involving Carpendale Mayor Butch Armentrout in the discussion because if the proposed bridge is built in Carpendale it could also provide river access. The proposed $5 million project would connect Carpendale at a point near the current railroad lines by the Potomac River to U.S. Route 220 in Allegany County just north of the Upper Potomac Industrial Park.

“In the past there was some money available from U.S. Fish and Wildlife for boat access that we may be able to get to. For the most part I don’t think there is a lot of expense to it,” said Howell.

Howell suggested that the cities could pursue the funding on their own.

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