WEST VIRGINIA CODE
CHAPTER 5B. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 1985.
ARTICLE 1A. WEST VIRGINIA RAILS TO TRAILS PROGRAM.
The Legislature hereby declares that the long-term value to
the public of retaining networks of abandoned railroad corridor
lines is substantial, not only for the preservation of corridors
for future rail transportation uses, but in terms of providing
interim recreational use, providing public open space and linking
together other community areas and recreational spaces, providing
for efficient and convenient placement of underground utilities and
telecommunication lines, providing environmental greenways and
wildlife habitat, providing public access to other forms of
recreation and improving economic development opportunities
associated with all of the above listed multiple uses.
§5B-1A-2. Rails to trails program.
There is continued within the state rail authority provided
for in article eighteen, chapter twenty-nine of this code the "West
Virginia Rails to Trails Program," the purpose of which is to
acquire or assist with the acquisition of, and to develop or assist
with the development of, abandoned railroad rights-of-way for
interim use as public nonmotorized recreational trails.
WVC 5 B- 1 A- 3
(1) "Abandoned railroad rights-of-way" means land on which
discontinuance of rail service has been authorized by the
interstate commerce commission.
(2) "Division" means the division of tourism and parks.
(3) "Nonmotorized recreational trail use" means bicycle,
hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, horse drawn wagon,
jogging or other similar activities.
(4) "Rail bank" means the holding intact of an abandoned
railroad right-of-way for future railroad service.
(5) "Rail trail" means an abandoned railroad right-of-way
utilized in the interim as a public nonmotorized recreational
§5B-1A-4. Powers and duties of the authority.
The state rail authority is authorized to:
(1) Enter into agreements with any person on behalf of the
state to acquire an interest in any abandoned railroad
right-of-way, to develop, maintain or promote any rail trails
created pursuant to the provisions of this article and, with the
consent of the director of the division of natural resources, to
transfer the maintenance and operation of rail trails created and
developed to the division of natural resources.
(2) Assist any political subdivision or any person in
acquiring an interest in any abandoned railroad right-of-way and in
developing, maintaining or promoting rail trails.
(3) Evaluate existing and potential abandoned railroad
rights-of-way so as to identify such lands as may be suitable for
nonmotorized recreational trail use.
(4) Establish state rail trails, subject to the limitations on
acquisition of land for state recreational facilities as set forth
in section twenty, article one, chapter twenty of this code.
§5B-1A-5. Powers to hold and acquire real property.
(a) The state rail authority shall hold fee simple title or
any lesser interest in land, including easements and leaseholds, on
all abandoned railroad rights-of-way acquired by the state and
utilized for interim nonmotorized recreational trail use pursuant
to the provisions of this article. The state rail authority may,
at the option of a political subdivision of this state, hold fee
simple title or any lesser interest in land, including easements
and leaseholds, on all abandoned railroad rights-of-way acquired by
such political subdivision and utilized for interim nonmotorized
recreational trail use. Any provision of article one-a, chapter
twenty of this code to the contrary notwithstanding, the public
land corporation shall not be vested with title to any abandoned
railroad right-of-way which becomes vested in the state pursuant to
the provisions of this article.
(b) The state rail authority may acquire an interest in an
abandoned railroad right-of-way to be used as a rail trail, in
accordance with the provisions of section six, article eighteen,
chapter twenty-nine of this code.
(c) The state rail authority shall issue a rail bank
certificate for each abandoned railroad right-of-way held by the
state rail authority for interim nonmotorized recreational purposes
in accordance with the provisions of section six of this article.
§5B-1A-6. Abandoned rights-of-way owned by the state prior to
effective date of article.
(a) No abandoned railroad right-of-way acquired by the state
prior to the effective date of this article and used as a rail
trail may be used for any purpose that would unreasonably limit the
ability to restore rail service over the right-of-way if such
service were to be required in the future.
(b) Any and all abandoned railroad rights-of-way acquired by
the state prior to the effective date of this article are hereby
declared held for railroad transportation purposes as of the date
of acquisition, until, by executive order of the governor, the
right-of-way is declared no longer suitable for a public
transportation purpose as a railroad right-of-way. Such abandoned
railroad rights-of-way shall not revert by operation of law to any
other ownership while being held for future railroad use in
accordance with the provisions of this article.
§5B-1A-7. Railroad rights-of-way preservation.
(a) Upon receipt of a notice to abandon a railroad right-of-
way by the owner thereof, the commissioner may enter into an
agreement with the owners of the railroad right-of-way to preserve
intact the railroad right-of-way for a period of time not to exceed
three months to afford the state sufficient time to evaluate the
potential for use by the state for the purposes of this article,
and the funds available for acquisition.
(b) With regard to any land or an interest therein actually
acquired by the state pursuant to the provisions of this article:
(1) Every specifically identified railroad right-of-way,
including all bridges still in place, shall remain intact except
for necessary modifications required to adapt the right-of-way for
use as a nonmotorized recreational trail, except for where it is
necessary for a motorized vehicle to cross the trail;
(2) Any abandoned railroad right-of-way shall be used solely
for nonmotorized recreational purposes, subject to such
right-of-way being made available for future rail use, if
(3) Any abandoned railroad right-of-way acquired by the state
pursuant to the provisions of this article shall be deemed to be
held for railroad use and in continuation of the railroad easement
and shall not revert by operation of law to any other ownership
during the term of the agreement or during the term of a rail bank
certificate issued pursuant to section five of this article.
§5B-1A-8. Limitation on liability of owner from whom state
acquires land or interest therein.
During the interim period when an abandoned railroad
right-of-way is held by the state for possible future railroad use,
the owner of the railroad right-of-way from whom the state acquired
the land or an interest therein is relieved from civil liability
for any personal injury or property damage occurring on the
right-of-way during such interim period, which might otherwise
arise from ownership.
§5B-1A-9. Limitation on liability of persons making land available
for trail use without charge.
(a) General rule. -- Except as specifically recognized or
provided in subsection (d) of this section, an owner or lessee who
provides the public with land for use as a trail under this article
or who owns land adjoining any trail developed under this article
owes no duty of care to keep the land safe for entry or use by
others for recreational purposes, or to give any warning to persons
entering or going on the trail or adjoining land of a dangerous
condition, use, structure or activity thereon.
(b) Owner. -- Any person, public agency or corporation owning
an interest in land utilized for recreational trail purposes
pursuant to this article shall be treated as an "owner" for
purposes of this article.
(c) Specific limitations on liability. -- Except as
specifically recognized by or provided in subsection (d) of this
section, an owner or lessee who provides the public with land or
who owns adjoining land to the trail under this article is not, by
providing that trail or land or owning land adjoining the trail:
(1) Presumed to extend any assurance that the land is safe for
(2) Incur any duty of care toward a person who goes on that
(3) Become liable for any injury to persons or property caused
by an act or an act of omission of a person who goes on that land.
(d) Exception. --
(1) This section does not apply to the owner or lessee of the
land used as a trail if there is any charge made or usually made
for entering or using the trail or land, or any part thereof.
(2) This section does not apply to the owner of land adjoining
a trail if there is any charge made or usually made by the owner of
such adjoining land for using the trail or land, or any part
thereof, or if any commercial or other activity relating to the use
of the trail whereby profit is derived from the patronage of the
general public is conducted on such adjoining land, or on any part
(3) The foregoing applies whether the person going on the land
provided or adjoining is an invitee, licensee, trespasser or
(e) This article does not relieve any person of liability
which would otherwise exist for deliberate, willful or malicious
injury to persons or property. The provisions of this article do
not create or increase the liability of any person.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
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