By Autumn Shelton, WV Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Legislature’s House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism advanced a bill on Tuesday that would allow the state’s Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to create the Adopt-A-Trail volunteer program.
The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 4, would give volunteer groups the ability to enter into an agreement with the DNR to help clean litter, complete accessibility projects, maintain or enhance trails, and provide public information, assistance or training on public lands that fall under the DNR’s jurisdiction.
SB 4 was originally introduced in the Senate through lead sponsor Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, and passed with 32 votes on Jan. 25. It is similar to House Bill (HB) 3102.
An example of groups who may become program volunteers include “communities, families, individuals, members of 4-H or Future Farmers of America, scouting organizations, any faith-based group, youth group, schools, college organizations, businesses, civic organizations and government agencies,” the bill states. Also, all volunteers must be aged 18 or older, or be accompanied by an adult. The DNR, and state park superintendents, would oversee that the projects are completed according to current regulations.
In testimony before committee members, WVDNR Director Brett McMillion stated that volunteerism at state parks has been in decline in recent years, but he hopes that this program will change that.
“We like this bill,” McMillion said. “We think it would be an opportunity to memorialize another program that we have. We have a very similar program that we operate now. This just kind of cleans it up, makes it a little more standardized.”
He stated that the DNR would provide materials, like bags, litter grabbers and lumber, for all groups who wish to volunteer.
In response to a question from Delegate Charles Sheedy, R-Marshall, about who will pay for Adopt-A-Trail signage, McMillion said that the DNR operates a sign shop at Carnifex Ferry with a CNC machine, so the cost would be very minimal.
Delegate Mike DeVault, R-Marion, then asked about the volunteer parameters for Adopt-A-Trail.
“We would like to see a trail adopted at every park, if not multiple,” McMillion responded. “We think there are over 800 miles of trails in the park system, and as we see changes over the years, it becomes harder to manage some of them.”
McMillion explained that the former Governor’s Summer Youth Program was a huge success once upon a time with helping keep up the state’s parks and trails, but that “went away.”
“Volunteerism is another avenue that we can use to achieve those goals,” he continued. “As far as limits, or how deep in they go, I think it would be up to that particular group and what their abilities are. We don’t want to regulate this thing really really deeply and preclude any group at all. We want any group, or family, who wants to volunteer to come and do so and be a part of the state park system.”
The bill will now be taken up by the House Finance Committee.
Additionally, the committee advanced HB 2935, which would create a tourism event emergency medical services (EMS) fund to help with the cost of additional EMS personnel at festivals or events where local EMS workers are “pushed to the limit.”
The fund would be administered by the Department of Tourism, or a designee. It would consist of both legislative appropriations and “other sources,” the bill states. The bill will now be taken up by the House Finance Committee.
Lastly, the committee referred HB 2521, which would create the Public/Private Small Business Enhancement Program, to the Subcommittee on Economic Development.