Brandon Doerner has been an avid mountain biker for years. In 2017, he found himself nominated for and serving on the Hurricane Development Authority Board. The Board soon began discussions for a small trail project using undeveloped land the City of Hurricane had acquired years ago. The small piece of land was accessible and perfectly situated adjacent to Hurricane City Park. But Brandon wondered if the project could be something larger. Much larger.
Doernor began hiking the hilly, wooded property and soon approached the Meeks family, who owned the bordering acreage, to pitch the idea of a vast trail system. His persistence and optimism led to a public-private partnership between the City of Hurricane, the Meeks Family, and Doerner to officially form the Meeks Mountain Trail Alliance, a nonprofit organization responsible for the building and maintenance of the trail system. In 2018 Doerner began construction with the help of his two young children. He set a goal of having a marathon’s worth of trails built in five years among the 600 acres now available for development.
Two volunteers showed up after hearing about the project and asked to help, and those two turned into a small group, and then into a large group as word spread. People were genuinely eager to help, and when Covid hit, people were excited for the opportunity to get outside and gather safely while working together toward a goal.
The Meeks Mountain Trail Alliance mission is “to build and sustain a network of trails for the health and well-being of the people and create additional opportunities for economic growth.” To date, more than 375 people have volunteered their time and energy to physically building the trails, putting in more than 13,000 volunteer hours. The initial build of 26 miles is set to be completed this year, ahead of the five-year goal. The trail already sees an average of more than 300 users daily, hiking, biking, and running along the secluded trails. The system is already serving visitors from across the country. Growth from the visitor economy is only expected to continue following trail completion when attention will turn toward maintenance, events, and marketing.
The economic impact is already evident with the opening of Wheelbilly Bikes adjacent to the trailhead, and The Juice Box, a favorite refreshment stop of trail explorers. The City of Hurricane is working on a long-term plan to extend the trail system through the new Hurricane Bridge Park which will connect to Hurricane’s Main Street, providing direct access to shops and restaurants in the historic town. Meanwhile, Meeks Mountain Trail Alliance has secured funding and installed a large picnic pavilion for events, is constructing a pump track, growing its marketing efforts, and organizing events. The entire area is eagerly anticipating hosting West Virginia’s first 100k trail race in September 2022.
Doerner is eager to share credit for the accomplishments of Meeks Mountain Trail Alliance with the hundreds of volunteers and dozens of committed folks who work tirelessly to build, maintain, promote, and protect the trail system. However, it’s clear none of this would have come to fruition without Doerner’s vision and years-long commitment to leading an organization with kindness, enthusiasm, and persistence. The development of the Meeks Mountain Trails is changing the lives of the people involved, improving the health of our broader community, and enhancing the tourism economy in Putnam County.