Get outside and enjoy

Stacey Niessner (left) spins the East Marion Park merry-go-round for Mackenzie Tennant, Ethan Harvey, Alexandrea Niessner and Andy Niessner.

Fifteen-month-old Alexandrea Niessner smiled as she and her dad Andy spun in circles on East Marion Park’s merry-go-round Friday afternoon.

Andy and Stacey Niessner took their daughter Alexandrea and her friends Mackenzie Tennant and Ethan Harvey, both 5, to the Fairmont park for some outdoor fun in the sun.

“She loves being outside in general,” Stacey said of her daughter. “She just enjoys being out in the sun. The park’s a good change of pace from the backyard.”

The kids played on the playground equipment with delight, and Stacey brought bubbles for them to blow into the warm, spring air.

“They’re definitely enjoying themselves,” Stacey said.

From parks and trails to fishing and sports, the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission offers a variety of outdoor recreation options that people can enjoy this spring.

MCPARC maintains 10 parks and about 20 miles of rails to trails. The 17-mile West Fork River Trail travels between Fairmont and Shinnston, and the 2.5 mile MCTRAIL, or Marion County Trail, runs between Fairmont and Pricketts Fort State Park. This time of year, more people start using the trails as the weather gets warmer, MCPARC assistant director Tony Michalski said.

“Once it gets nice out, you’re going to see people using them in a variety of ways,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of activity on them.”

“(It) is a great family activity,” MCPARC director Dan Talbott said of the trails.

Hikers, bikers, horseback riders, roller bladers and runners take advantage of the trails. MCPARC is in the process of paving the West Fork River Trail to Worthington, Michalski said.

Marianne Moran, director of the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office receives many requests for maps and information on the rails to rails. A lot of out-of-towners as well as local people use these trails.

“I can’t wait to get out and start walking myself,” Moran said.

In addition to the trail system, MCPARC offers other activities at various parks throughout the county.

Worthington Park, by the West Fork River Trail, provides fishing opportunities. The Worthington Fire Department stocks the fish for this park, Michalski said. The county also features two fishing parks: Curtisville Lake and Guyses Run.

The state Division of Natural Resources stocks the 30-acre Curtisville Lake, which Talbott said has “excellent fishing.” The 600-acre area also offers hiking trails.

At the Guyses Run Fishing Park, located near Colfax, children can fish for free Wednesday after school. The park is also open to the public for fishing on Saturday and Sunday with a fee. MCPARC has operated Guyses Run for three years and is trying to expand the area.

“We’ve been working with the WVU Extension Office in developing it and getting the water quality up,” Talbott said. “We’re working on grants to get the funds to develop it and get more park facilities like pavilions.”

Talbott said the popular East Marion Wave Pool, located at East Marion Park, is one of the only wave pools in the area and one of the few in the state. The pool, which features a water slide, is scheduled to open Saturday, May 26. East Marion Park — which Talbott said is MCPARC’s main park — has six pavilions, a recreation hall, playground and mini-golf course. It is also equipped for volleyball, softball, basketball and tennis, Talbott said.

The Mary Lou Retton Youth Park in Fairmont has five baseball fields, which are used for T-ball, little league and high school baseball. It also has playground equipment, a picnic pavilion, football field and basketball court. The park’s five tennis courts are temporarily closed for service, Talbott said.

Fairmont’s Morris Park features a disc golf course that’s free to use. Also, MCPARC has a BMX bicycle racing track where the state championship BMX race and local races are held, Talbott said. This BMX course is getting ready to open for the year. Also, MCPARC’s “For the Kids” Soccer Complex is “top notch,” Michalski said.

It seems that more and more people are visiting Marion County’s parks and trail system.

“We have a lot of unique recreational opportunities that a lot of places in North Central West Virginia don’t have,” Michalski said. “I think people realize what we have to offer, and we have people who come in from other areas to see these attractions.”

Talbott said volunteers in the county help make MCPARC’s many trips, programs and special events possible. MCPARC stays busy performing maintenance on its facilities, and it often relies on volunteers to run youth activities and sports, Michalski added.

“Sometimes people don’t realize what we have in our state,” Talbott said.

For more information, visit www.mcparc.com or call 363-7037.

E-mail Jessica Legge at jlegge@timeswv.com.

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