Furnace Bridge

Pictured is a snowy bridge at Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest.

Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 27 newspaper on Page A1.

McARTHUR — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources terminated a proposed project that would create all-purpose vehicle (APV) trail systems in Zaleski State Forest and the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest, officials say.

Kaabe Shaw, Stephen Rist and Courtney Cawood met with the Vinton County commissioners during their Nov. 19 meeting to discuss different developments in the county.

Zaleski Forest Manager Cawood noted that with a new governor and a new ODNR director coming into leadership at the beginning of this year, ODNR officials reviewed proposed projects and decided to go in a different direction, focusing efforts on expanding existing APV trail systems in other parts of the state.

Recently, ODNR announced plans to expand the system in Pike State Forest.

Over the last seven years, the Ohio Division of Forestry acquired additional acres for APV trail expansion at Pike State Forest. This past August, four miles of new trails, a shelter house and an APV camping area were opened at the forest.

After new trails are constructed, the Ohio Division of Forestry will offer riders more than 40 miles of trails at Pike State Forest.

Last year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry identified Zaleski State Forest and Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest as priority areas for District 4, which includes all of Southeast Ohio.

The Vinton County commissioners voiced disappointment in this decision, pointing to the potential boost in tourism APV trails could have brought to the county.

Not everyone in the area approved of the project proposal from its start, however. A group of property owners and other stakeholders in the Zaleski State Forest area met with ODNR officials in Athens in October of 2018 to point out their concerns.

Many of those who voiced opposition to the proposed trails in Zaleski noted they are not opposed to APV trail systems being created in the county — some offered support of the proposed trail systems at Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest.

The Vinton County tourism office also took issue with the proposed Zaleski trails, last year citing multiple concerns such as noise pollution and the frequency of APV trail intersection with hiking trails. The Convention and Visitors Bureau feared that APV riders may ignore signs and venture off their designated trails.

The CVB voiced support of the trail system that was proposed in the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest.

“An APV trail system would be a significant boon to our county’s tourism industry, spurring economic growth with an influx of outside dollars,” the CVB wrote in a letter to ODNR in 2017. “It has the potential to lead to new business opportunities, such as cabin rentals, APV repair, and general stores.”

Rist, Shaw and Cawood also updated commissioners on funding obtained for the Moonville Rail Trail, which will construct several bridges in the area and put gates over mine openings in the area. Shaw noted the department’s goal is to start construction on the major project sometime next year.

sdawes@vintoncourier.com; @sydneydawes_95

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