Elkins Heads EAST

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March 28, 2024


After years of planning and coalition building, the community-led Elkins Area Shared Trails (EAST) initiative announces its new plan to connect residents and visitors, at any ability or skill level, to all the outdoor recreation opportunities our Mon Forest Towns have to offer!

Elkins Area Shared Trails Director Jessica Sutton Speaks at Big Timber Brewing

Elkins Area Shared Trails Director Jessica Sutton Explains a New Vision for Recreation in Elkins

Before you can follow your dreams, you need a direction, and for Jessica Sutton, all signs are pointing east. At a public outreach event held at Big Timber Brewing’s spacious new location on Davis Ave in Elkins, Sutton unveiled the next steps of a project over six years in the making. What began as a shared aspiration among local mountain bikers and Monongahela National Forest Service staff has evolved into the Elkins Area Shared Trails initiative (EAST), and with four project sites covering over 200 acres slated for development in the next three years, its members plan to hit the trail running.

Sutton opened the program with a question: How can Elkins, a gateway to the Mon, improve its connection with the nearly a million acres of outdoor recreation opportunities only a short drive outside town? Rather than wait for the world to change, EAST and its partners, including WVU’s Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, Woodlands Lending, the City of Elkins, and Mon Forest Towns, set out to change the world.

Behind the scenes, volunteers began laying the groundwork for a true 21st-century trail network. The keystone focus of this new vision for Elkins is what Sutton described as an accessible “multi-purpose human-powered trail system,” optimized for various outdoor activities in any weather, from bike skills training in the sun to running in the rain. Sutton further clarified EAST’s mission, taking into account lessons from the past, it’s not just about building new trails, but taking care of the trails we already have, including connecting and improving those found on the Davis & Elkins College campus and the 26-mile Allegheny Highlands Rail-Trail.

“Using trails to connect with the community and broader world.”


EAST’s holistic approach to trail design strives to address residents’ needs while providing visitors with a new way to engage with all that the City of Elkins has to offer. We want people to stay and experience Elkins… using trails to connect with the community and broader world. Moreover, EAST wants to encourage users of all ages and abilities to spend more time outside and active. EAST’s collaborations with the West Virginia Autism Center, Davis & Elkins College, and Medical Center all highlight the value its partners have placed on creating heath-centered, inclusive spaces where everyone can learn and explore the Mon together. As another EAST coordinator, Katie Wolpert continued, This is not a bike project, this is not a hiking project, this is a community project… we want our kids to use these trails- we want to use these trails.”

EAST Coordinator Katie Wolpert Discusses the Groups Plans Moving Forward

“This is not a bike project. This is not a hiking project. This is a community project.”

If the turnout on Tuesday, November 14th, 2023, was anything to go on, Sutton and Wolpert weren’t the only ones who felt this way. While adults in the audience passed around copies of development plans and listened to the presentation with rapt attention, children of all ages gathered EAST stickers, bouncing happily around the room. Some even took to the stage, already casting their outline on the trails’ designs.

A young boy runs in front of the EAST presentation at Big Timber

The upcoming projects at Glendale Park, Darby Farms, Davis & Elkins, and Davis Memorial Hospital are just the beginning for EAST. With a scalable, community-centered master plan, its members hope to expand their footprint throughout Elkins, cementing the city as a recreation hub for decades to come.

More information, updates, and events related to EAST can be found on the Woodlands Lending Website and on the Elkins Area Shared Trails Facebook page.

Proposed Trail Maps for EAST Projects