BY DAN TAYLOR, ENERGIZING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITIES PROGRAM COORDINATOR, THE HUB
On a beautiful fall morning in early October, I took a road trip down to Mullens, West Virginia, located in the hills of Wyoming County, south of Beckley.
Through The Hub’s Innovation Acceleration Strategies program, we were able to award mini-grant funds to a few excellent community teams working on projects to uplift the area. Projects such as community art classes (see a short video of the class), a forthcoming remote control (RC) car race track for youth and others, and the Bike Friendly Mullens project – the initiative I was on the road to check out – were all recipients.
Nearby resident and rail trail enthusiast, Matthew Allen, in partnership with the City of Mullens and Councilman Reece Neely, worked to put together the Bike Friendly Mullens project.
“The City of Mullens is a unique and important part of Wyoming County,” said Matthew. “Projects like Coalfields Expressway, Barkers Creek Industrial Park and our proposed Rails-to-Trails project will feed off the energy that a community like Mullens can provide.”
Bike Friendly Mullens is a part of a larger vision for a more recreation-friendly Wyoming County. While the Hatfield McCoy trail system is already booming and bringing people into the area, there is so much more opportunity for rail trails on old abandoned rail lines for cyclists, for hiking trails like the Great Eastern Trail, and kayaking and canoeing on the Guyandotte River.
Bike Friendly Mullens was able to install three new bike racks and five “Share the Road” signs, important infrastructure for making cycling better promoted and safer for youth, locals and county visitors.
Reece was kind enough to take a few hours out of his busy day to show me these new improvements and so much more that Mullens has to offer.
We began our trip at City Hall downtown and headed toward West Mullens. We encountered the first Share the Road sign there, on Moran Avenue at the entrance to this idyllic family neighborhood.
This road lead up past Mullens Middle School and some new basketball courts, as the area has a rich basketball history. We then arrived at West Mullens playground, site of the first bike rack. This flat, residential area is perfect for biking.
Leaving West Mullens we passed the next Share the Road sign. While Reece told me stories of area history, we continued on toward the Mullens Athletic Field and Pool, where another Share the Road sign and bike rack are installed.
Reece let it be known that many of these playground and pool improvements were made possible by the work of the City of Mullens Foundation, an organization that – according to a great write up by The Register Herald – is, “made up of Mullens High alumni, current and former town residents and other volunteers – [and] began as part of Rural Appalachia Improvement League (RAIL), but is now an independent, nonprofit entity.”
We later stopped at the Mullens Opportunity Center, operated by RAIL, where there is also a bike rack now. Reece, a board member of RAIL, was proud to show off their small, but amazing, local railroad museum. Tom Marshall, who runs this museum, was happy give me a look and is available by appointment to do the same for area visitors who are interested.
Capturing more business from the Hatfield McCoy Pinnacle Creek trailhead is a key goal for the area. Reece also took our tour up to Tater Hill, a scenic overlook and picnic area overlooking Mullens. Accessible by ATV and truck, Tater Hill is an amazing site. Much has been done to improve the road and signage to find it and much more is in the works. Mullens is lucky to have such a great asset like Tater Hill, which should be a must see stop for any ATV enthusiast visiting Wyoming County.
We finished up the trip in South Mullens, seeing the bike rack at the playground there and nearby Share the Road sign. Just across the way, the National Coal Heritage Area has just helped with new signage for the Coal Miner Memorial park.
I thank Reece for the tour, Matthew for all of his hard work on the project, and all others mentioned in this article – and those left out. Mullens feels like a place on the verge of something new and positive. I am lucky to have been able to spend such a great afternoon there, and I hope to visit again soon.