If you build it, they will come.
That seems to be happening at the Eastwood Recreation Complex. Thanks to the work of a group of local volunteers, the recreation area now includes the Major Kevin Clegg Trail System, which offers five miles of hiking and bicycling trails.
As a result of the improvements, the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association are interested in expanding to include a Jackson County youth team, said Joseph Marra, a local mountain-biking enthusiast and member of the Ravenswood Board of Parks and Recreation.
A meeting will be held Feb. 9 for anyone interested in forming a youth mountain biking team in Jackson County. The meeting is set for 10 a.m. at the McIntosh House, also known as the Ravenswood Community Building, located at 300 Henrietta St.
There is also the future possibility of hosting a race at the recreation complex.
“They knew we were building trails in Eastwood and asked if we would like to get a group together in Jackson County. We said we’d give it a shot,” Marra said. “Between both areas around Ripley and Ravenswood, I would hope we could get at least a dozen kids showing interest in participating.”
Cycling at the middle- and high-school levels began in earnest a decade ago, Marra said, and West Virginia began forming teams in the last two years.
Some teams have eight to 10 members, while others have as many as 30, Marra said. WVCL and NICA hold four races around the state.
“They are getting close to 100 kids out on those weekends. It’s a good opportunity for youths to be involved in non-traditional sporting activities,” Marra said.
Hosting a race would be a great opportunity for Jackson County, Marra said, since it would bring people into the area.
“They usually come in the day before, pre-ride the course, and get everything set up. People camp and spend the night, families hang out. It’s almost like old-school bike racing,” he said.
Racing is not required. The team would be co-ed, and there will be no cuts, so everyone rides. The team is open to all middle- and high-school students. No experience is necessary.
“There are no cuts and no pressure. There will be a few organized practices. We’ll need to find a coach to look after the program. It’s open to any kid who wants to do it and who has the right bike and a helmet. There are no fees to join the club,” Marra said.
Marra and others are pleased the trails are getting some attention. A group of local volunteers came up with the idea to create the trail system in the Fall of 2017.
“We discussed it with the city and they were on board,” Marra said.
The City of Ravenswood leased the land from the Jackson County Board of Education for $1 and volunteers began making improvements. They built trails, constructed and placed signs and trail markers, and improved water crossings. Signs also were procured for the four-lane coming into Ravenswood. Work on the facility is continuing, with hopes of adding additional picnic tables and improving the two shelters currently on site.
In addition to cycling clubs, the recreation complex also has attracted the attention of hiking clubs.
“I’ve had emails and questions from people all over the state. We had a hiking club from Charleston come up one weekend. They came up with about 15 people for one of their club hikes. It’s getting a lot of interest,” Marra said.
The trail system’s namesake, Kevin Clegg, was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed bike riding and hiking.
“He passed away a few years ago, and a group of his friends and family raised some money to help with some of the expenses,” Marra said.
Marra said he’s hoping for a great turnout at the meeting.
“You always hear there’s nothing to do, nothing for the kids. Well, this is low-cost and involves exercise. You’ve got people with similar interests just out enjoying nature. It’s awesome,” Marra said.