UNION – Forty years after its start, volunteers are nearly done carving out the Allegheny Trail, a 330-mile hiking path that runs from the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border near Bruceton Mills to a junction with the Appalachian Trail not far from this Monroe County town.
Members of the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association have been working on the trail since the hiking group was created in 1974.
“We have all but about 30 miles done now, most of it in Alleghany and Craig counties in Virginia,” said Brian Hirt, president of the association.
The trail uses public lands wherever possible. The trail also crosses several private tracts, with owners’ permission, and follows less-traveled country roads between trail links. Association volunteers monitor and maintain each of the trail’s four sections.
Hirt and 10 other association members recently marked a prospective route for the trail’s remaining segment on U.S. Forest Service land on the Virginia slope of Peters Mountain between Sweet Springs and Paint Bank, Va.
A mile-long section of the trail in Monroe County is the most heavily traveled. It runs from Limestone Road atop Peters Mountain to Hanging Rock Tower, a former forest fire lookout that’s now mainly used by birders to monitor the annual migrations of hawks, eagles and other birds of prey.
One reason for the trail’s development was to provide an option for long-distance hikers who don’t have the time and resources to hike the Appalachian Trail.
Conviction in dancer’s death: A man convicted of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, a Beckley dancer, will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Raleigh County jurors deliberated less than 40 minutes Friday before finding 33-year-old Jeremy Lambert of first-degree murder. The jury recommended life without mercy, meaning Lambert has no chance for parole.
Prosecutors say Lambert stabbed 25-year-old Cyan Maroney 23 times at her Beckley home on Oct. 2, 2011.
Maroney had been part of the West Virginia Dance Company, Theatre West Virginia and Trillium Performing Arts.
Lambert’s defense lawyers said he suffered from post-traumatic stress order following his deployment to Kuwait.
Habitat for Humanity milestone: West Virginia Habitat for Humanity just celebrated the construction of its 700th home in the state.
The organization reached the milestone with a house built in Morgantown for Tara Davis and her two daughters. The home was dedicated Saturday.
Davis says she will continue working with a Habitat for Humanity partnership to help build homes for others.
New Mountaineer: Michael Garcia, a junior political science major from Fairmont, is the 63rd Mountaineer Mascot.
Garcia, named Saturday as the West Virginia University mascot for the 2014-15 academic year, says he grew up watching the Mountaineers on TV and wondered what it would be like to put on the mascot’s buckskins and carry the musket.
Besides the musket and buckskins, the job comes with some other benefits. As the Mountaineer Mascot, he’ll travel across the country making hundreds of appearances and attend athletic events on and off campus.
When he saw his predecessor Jonathan Kimble hoist the musket at midcourt and celebrate two years ago, Garcia said his desire for the position grew even stronger. He was a finalist for the mascot job last year.
Last summer, Garcia interned in Charleston for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who was the Mountaineer in 1990.
Oil spill probed: State regulators are investigating an oil spill from a private well near West Union.
Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said that between 800 and 1,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the well into a tributary of Tom’s Fork Creek.
The DEP was notified about the spill Thursday afternoon. Workers from the department and Ryan Environmental spent the weekend working to contain the spill and remove the oil from the waterway.
Preliminary reports indicate that a pipe on the well might have frozen and then burst.
The spill occurred about 10 miles upstream from West Union.
Weapons questions: An investigation is underway into how weapons in the evidence room of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office ended up in a gun store.
Officials became aware of the missing weapons when a deputy couldn’t find on the evidence log weapons linked to cases he had worked. The missing firearms date to cases from 2010 or earlier.
Sgt. B.F. Hall says there were no orders on file to explain how the weapons ended up for sale.
The Secretary of State must issue an order authorizing police to dispose of weapons from evidence rooms. Once the order is issued, Hall said the guns either can be destroyed or sold.
Trio of ODs reported: Mason County Sheriff Greg Powers says three drug overdose deaths have been reported this week in the county.
Responding to reports the deaths were related to tainted heroin, Powers says toxicology tests are the only way to be “100 percent sure” of that claim.
Experts say Mason County and the surrounding area have seen an influx of heroin. Treatment experts say the drug provides a cheaper high for users.
Kim Miller, who works with a mental health care provider in Mason County, says a $25 supply of heroin will last an entire day or longer. She said heroin’s growing use is a matter of economics.