The American Water Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization established by American Water, recently announced five organization in West Virginia, including the West Virginia Land Trust, have each received a 2022 Water and Environment Grant.
The West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) has been awarded $26,338 in support of the Little Bluestone Community Forest project in Summers County. With these grant funds in place, WVLT plans to acquire the property in the fall of this year.
WVLT is leading the fundraising and land protection efforts to purchase 370 acres in Summers County for the purpose of creating a community forest. The land neighbors the National Park Service Bluestone National Scenic River and surrounds the Cooper’s Mill historic site owned by the Summers County Commission.
“West Virginia American Water is proud to support the Little Bluestone Community Forest project, as this land is located within our source water protection zone of critical concern, ” said Robert Burton, president, West Virginia American Water. “By conserving land that surrounds rivers and streams, we are protecting the drinking water for the community of Hinton.”
Funder support will allow WVLT acquire the forest and manage it for community benefits, providing additional public access and recreational opportunities on the Little Bluestone River while also protecting vital water supplies and wildlife habitat. Access to the site for regular public use will be subject to future development of access, parking, and trails.
In addition to receiving a grant from American Water, WVLT has accessed funding for this project from a variety of other funders including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, and USDA Forest Service Community Forest Program – this project is the first awarded by the program in West Virginia.
“This project is valuable to the entire region as it not only impacts the city of Hinton, but also Summers County and Mercer County as the project develops. Future trails could tie into the Bluestone Turnpike Trail which will provide access from the Bluestone State Park and Pipestem State Park to the community forest and Cooper’s Mill. The hike is beautiful along the scenic river, making this a great destination for tourists,” said Jack Woodrum, State Senator and former Summers County Commission.
In 2020, the Summers County community approached the WVLT to partner on the purchase and preservation of the Little Bluestone property. Supporters of this community forest project include the Summers County Commission, State Senator Woodrum, Representative Miller, Senator Capito, Senator Manchin, National Park Service, Summers County Historical Society, City of Hinton, Hinton Area Foundation, Summers County Historic Landmark Commission, and the West Virginia Division of Forestry.