CLENDENIN, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice was joined by several other state and local dignitaries to present an over $2 million grant for a bike park to come to the town of Clendenin.

The new, state-of-the-art Air Raid Bike Park was announced Wednesday afternoon followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

It will be a year-round park designed for downhill mountain biking that the operating company undertaking the project, Gravitate To West Virginia, as well as local leaders say, will potentially transform Clendenin into a world-class tourism destination.

Justice said he and the Department of Tourism made the decision to provide the initial funding for the project because Clendenin is an ideal location for tourism opportunities, but has been put through a lot over the years– a major downturn being the 2016 flood that did significant damage to the area– and he said it deserves something good to come to it.

“This community, like I said, has suffered some real cannonballs right to the stomach and then right behind that though, they rebounded, and this is close to our population center of Charleston, it’s in our backyard, it absolutely can bring more and more folks to West Virginia and more and more opportunity for all of us,” Justice said.

President of the soon-to-be Air Raid Bike Park who represents Gravitate To WV, Jake Smith said construction on the park will soon get underway and will take about a year to complete.

He said it’s the first stepping stone to a larger vision they have for the area, which is what is known as a Gravity Adventure Park.

Smith said the idea for the park began from a vision he had from traveling to surrounding areas and experiencing the mountain biking opportunities they offered.

“Traveling down in that area in Asheville, Zirconia in North Carolina and Tennessee, we recognized that we have some of the best terrain and we need to capitalize on that here in West Virginia,” Smith said.

He said West Virginia is already no stranger to downhill mountain biking as it’s offered at Snowshoe Ski Resort– one of the hosts to the UCI Mountain Bike World Series in 2023.

Smith said, growing up in the small community of Pinch, WV, not too far from Clendenin, he was raised to believe that if you want something, you go work for it, which he said is exactly what they did, adding that the outcome of the dream feels amazing.

“We rolled up our sleeves, went to work, and developed a concept plan out and were able to meet with a lot of people across the state,” he said. “They were able to see where we were at in the process and were able to take up to the next step, so seeing this today, it’s really surreal, it’s an emotional time for us all because it’s a dream come true.”

Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers said it gives her chills having everyone out Wednesday for the announcement as they help to welcome a new era for the town in building it back up after the flood.

“Everyone for one common goal, to build Clendenin back, to make it better, and to bring economic growth, for people to come and build here and live here,” she said. “Like what’s going on with the schools, I talked about Herbert Hoover High School, and our new elementary school is going to be here after eight years, so I’m just thrilled to death.”

She said the company plans to annex the area where the park is being built and they eventually plan to build cabins, an RV park and other various outdoor amenities.

Summers said this will open the door up to more businesses and economic growth for the area, as well. One business she said she hopes to see come back to the community is a grocery store, as Summers said they haven’t had a new grocery store in Clendenin since the flood.

She said developing the community back up following the flood has been a process of excitement and deep concern for her.

“When the rain comes I get really scared, like with the last storms, I’m responsible for the whole town, the whole community, I have to think of everything so differently, so that’s why I just pray so hard everyday that we can continue to grow,” Summers said.

However, Justice said the bike park to come to Clendenin just adds another reason to feel good about what’s going on for the future of the state.

“It adds another significant piece, that’s all there is to it,” said Justice. “I mean, just think, $7 billion dollars a year spent in West Virginia right now, and another billion from last year, and with all of that being said, growing it at a level of 30%, it’s off the chart.”

The over $2 million check Justice presented Wednesday was from an Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) grant.