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By: Robert Janis

Marshall University

Marshall University’s On-Campus and Online Course
Prepares Designers, Builders, Managers of OHV Trail Systems

Off-highway vehicle recreationists who may have considered a career in the field of off-highway vehicle trail systems can take undergraduate and graduate courses at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. These courses were designed to be offered online as well.  Dr. Raymond Busbee, Professor Emeritus at Marshall University, developed all four of the courses in the series.  He has taught the first two courses online for the past five years.  The last two courses in the series are currently being converted to online capability.

According to Busbee, the courses, which he started to develop about 12 to 15 years ago, have ties to the creation of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia.

According to Busbee, Southern West Virginia was a heavy coal mining area, but over the years coal mining began to decline in seven southern counties of West Virginia due to automation. “Not as many people were needed to work in the coal mines, so those counties suffered a very high unemployment rate,” he said. “So two gentlemen, an attorney from Falls Church, Virginia named John English, and a lobbyist from West Virginia named Leff Moore wondered what could be done to boost the economy of this region of West Virginia. They came up with the idea of developing a world class OHV trail system. Over the next several years they worked diligently to get support for the project. They created support groups, they got the southern counties involved, and they secured a $400,000 grant for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study on the idea. The study was done and indicated that there was a very good opportunity for economic development if a trail system was developed in those seven southern West Virginia counties.”

Buoyed by the study English and Moore obtained support from the State of West Virginia, and they then approached timber companies, coal mining companies, and gas and oil companies who owned land in the area and requested permission to develop OHV trails on these private lands.

“The idea was to develop the trail system using private lands, not federal or state land,” said Busbee. English and Moore were then successful in getting the state to pass legislation exempting the land companies from liability.  They were then successful in acquiring development and operational funding assistance from the State of West Virginia, various federal agencies, and private sources.

“Currently, there are approximately 600 miles of OHV trails in the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system,” said Busbee. There are current plans to expand the system to 2,000 miles with extensions into Kentucky and Virginia, volunteered Busbee.

During the early planning stages of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, English and Moore contacted Busbee and asked him to develop an academic program that could support the trail system. Working with them, including the Nick J. Rahall, Jr. Appalachian Transportation Institute, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council and Marshall University, Busbee developed a four-course curriculum on OHV recreation.

The purpose of the courses is to provide Marshall University students and professional employees of planning and land management agencies courses dealing with the general aspects of OHV recreation, and the planning, construction, operation, and management of OHV trails and facilities. Career employees can obtain academic credit after completing the courses and students attending other schools may have the credits transferred to their respective colleges or universities. The courses fall under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Resources Program of Marshall University. The program offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Parks and Conservation. “The idea was not to just teach the courses on campus,” explained Busbee. It was also to offer them online for professional career employees who were out in the field." We wanted it to also be for people who were out of college for many years who had never taken OHV management courses in school.”

The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) participated in the development of the curriculum. “NOHVCC created an advisory committee which worked with me in creating the courses. The advisory committee, along with their various partners, participated in tweaking the courses into what professionals in the field of OHV trail system development and operation thought was needed,” said Busbee.

Four courses have been developed and are being taught on the campus of Marshall University. Two of those courses are currently online, and the last two courses are being prepared to go online in the not-too-distant future, said Busbee.

The four courses are:

  1. Introduction to Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation
  2. Planning and Design of OHV Trails and Parks
  3. Construction of OHV Trail Systems
  4. Operation and Management of OHV Trail Systems

The courses that are now online are:

  • Introduction to Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation
  • Planning and Design of OHV Trails and Parks

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