A former coal-industry building becomes a much-needed rest area on the Deckers Creek Trail.
Bikers and walkers of the Deckers Creek Trail discovered a new oasis—and a bit of history—this summer. The 1907 Elkins Coal and Coke Building in Masontown, which sits at mile marker 13, became the first public restroom along the 19.5-mile-long stretch of rail-trail. The location also includes drinking fountains, vending machines, and a parking lot.
Trail users and community members had long expressed a desire for a restroom. In 2011, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia listed the Coal and Coke building as an endangered property. Its roof functioned as little better than a skylight and people left trash inside. Then, in 2013, the West Virginia Division of Highways awarded the Mon River Trails Conservancy (MRTC) a $92,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program to repurpose the building. MRTC matched 20 percent of that funding and secured donations of extra amenities like vending machines. “We were able to save the original framework and integrity of the building,” says MRTC Executive Director Ella Belling. “What we’ve done is transform it into a new use and new purpose on the rail-trail.”
The restrooms were finished this past July in time for peak rail-trail season. Too new for most maps, the rest area was a welcome surprise for weary travelers. They recorded their thanks in a guestbook, becoming part of the building’s history alongside the former coal workers whose names are etched into the century-old structure.
MRTC, along with Preston County Parks and Recreation and several additional partners, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September. About 50 people attended, including city council members and state legislators. A group of cyclists defied rain to make the uphill trek from Morgantown for the occasion.
“I’m looking forward to seeing events take place there,” says Belling. “You’d have a great mini-park to start your group walks or host a run.” The building has been a part of the community for more than a hundred years. Now, it might continue to be useful for a hundred years more. montrails.org
written by Jess Walker