BY KATELYN CAMPBELL, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY VISTA, THE HUB
Here at The Hub, we’ve been busy tracking a number of community development-focused bills as they’ve made their way through the Legislature this Session. As we round out Week 4, our menu of bills we’re tracking has definitely grown in length, but we’ve still been keeping an eye on a bill we introduced to you during Week 1 – Senate Bill 59.
If passed, SB 59 would create a pool of funds to relieve municipalities and counties of some of the cost burden of cleanup for unsafe burned out properties that did not have sufficient fire insurance.
One of the most important things to learn about the Legislature is that sometimes you have to play a game of “hurry up and wait.” Like many of the 1331 bills introduced so far this year, SB 59 still hasn’t made it onto its committee’s agenda.
SB 285, sponsored by Senators Karnes and Boso, creates a process for counties interested in establishing new trail systems to form regional recreation authorities. According to the bill, a regional recreation authority would consist of three or more contiguous counties who, pending approval from the Joint Committee on Government and Finance, would organize a board and appoint an Executive Director to lead trail development projects.
Getting a trail system off the ground requires lots of time, investment, and hard work. Before ground can even be broken on a new trail, agreements have to be reached with landowners, plans must be created to ensure construction follows all regulations, and insurance must be secured (not to mention the extensive fundraising and hundreds of other tasks).
All of that hard work has paid off in spades for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, which has generated millions of dollars in new tax revenue and wages through its boost to tourism efforts in Southern West Virginia. The Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority recently received a $1.4M POWER Grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to support new entrepreneurship efforts surrounding the trails.
As of January 29, SB 285 has passed through the Senate Natural Resources committee, was relieved of its referral to the Senate Finance committee, and was read three times on the floor. It was passed unanimously by the Senate and is now off to the House for further consideration.
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