Unveiling the new Trail Head sign and map at the Green Bank Observatory last Thursday with a ribbon cutting were, from left: Greenbrier District Ranger Jack Tribble, GBO director Karen O’Neil, GBO business manager Michael Holstine and Ranger Alex Schlueter. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

The Green Bank Observatory is known for it’s groundbreaking astronomy research, not to mention being home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope – the Green Bank Telescope – but it will soon be known for its series of trails which wind around the facility and join the Allegheny Trail and other trails in the Monongahela National Forest.

After two years of planning and collaboration, the MNF and GBO celebrated their partnership with the dedication of a trail head sign at the observatory parking lot.

The sign includes two maps – one of the GBO grounds and the other, a map highlighting the trails in and around the facility.

“We’re at seventeen, I believe, is the number of trails that we have,” business manager Michael Holstine said. “Some of those are connector trails and then, of course, the major thing is that this connects to the Allegheny Trail at the back of the property with the National Forest Service. The Allegheny Trail goes from Cass all the way up to Durbin.”

Greenbrier District Ranger Jack Tribble said the forest service is pleased to be working with the GBO and other entities to highlight Pocahontas County’s trail system.

“This is a part of us working together as a community in the area to get some economic development through connecting Snowshoe on one side, the Green Bank Observatory on this side and then the Monongahela behind here,” Tribble said. “The partnership is something we feel very strongly about, and we feel like it’s the beginning of getting the trails connected together.”

“I’m fairly new here, but it struck me that Green Bank has really embraced recreation and has this annual event [Space Race Rumpus] that is just awesome every year,” Ranger Alex Schlueter added. “It attracts so many bikers, and they enjoy it.”

The hope is that Pocahontas County will become a hub for mountain biking activity and attract more visitors with a new niche.

“People don’t necessarily realize that the forest service also has all these trails right next door [to the GBO] and just increasing the awareness of those connections and embracing this trend that recreation is growing in this area could lead to bigger and better opportunities is great,” Schlueter said. “Years from now, it could be a recreation hub, and we’ll just wait and see.”

The sign unveiling and collaboration between the MNF and GBO are just part of a larger plan to connect all the trails of Pocahontas County. The MNF and Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau submitted an application for the county to become a certified International Mountain Bike Association ride center, which will be advertised internationally in mountain biking publications.

With the sign and the information circulating about the trails and their connections, both entities feel there will be an increase in the number of people coming to Pocahontas County specifically for the trails.

“Now that we have this, we think it’s going to give us a jump in attendance for [Space Race Rumpus] and awareness of what we have in the area,” Holstine said. “That’s what’s really important.”

Tribble agreed.

“I think that’s super important, just to have people know,” Tribble said. “Did you know we had all these trails here? I think it’s an amazing thing – just getting the word out is important to show how much effort and time the Green Bank Observatory has put into this. It’s been great to have them as a partner.”