Here’s what we know about Senate Bill 270

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A bill to allow commercial logging in West Virginia’s State Parks, Senate Bill 270, was introduced in the WV Legislature at the request of Governor Justice. This bill would end an 80-year ban on logging in West Virginia’s State Parks.

There has been a quick public outcry against this bill as many folks have an immediate, emotional reaction to cutting trees in West Virginia’s precious State Parks. In an effort to educate the public on this complex issue, Friends of the Cheat has done their best, in a short time frame, to pull together factual information on this matter with support from our partners at West Virginians for Public Lands.

If you have already made up your mind that commercial logging in State Parks is not good for West Virginia contact the Governor now, and tell him you oppose lifting the logging ban.

If you are not so sure, read on…

The State Code (section 20-5-3) says that the purpose of the West Virginia Parks and Recreation section, is “to promote conservation by preserving and protecting natural areas of unique or exceptional scenic, scientific, cultural, archaeological or historic significance and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the citizens of this state and its visitors.”

Section 20-1-7 says that valid reasons for acquiring state park lands are “for the purpose of preserving scenic, aesthetic, scientific, cultural, archaeological or historical values or natural wonders, or providing public recreation.”

Logging does not serve any of these purposes. Logging operations reduce the scenic and aesthetic values of a forest, interfere with recreational use, and can degrade or obscure scientific, cultural, archaeological, and historical values. Therefore, logging our State Forests contravenes the mission of the Parks and Recreation section, and betrays the values for which the land was acquired. Allowing logging in our State Park system would fundamentally change the nature of that system. Is that really what we want to do?

West Virginia’s public lands are about 13% of the total forest land in the state*, and 98% of those public lands are currently open to logging**. There is little to be gained, and much to be lost from this proposal.

WV Code citations

*WV Division of Forestry Resource Assessment 2010, pg. 25

**WV Department of Commerce website

For more information, check out the Save Our State Parks webpage.

 

Happy West Virginia Day from the Cheat River!

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Happy West Virginia Day from the Majestic Cheat River and Friends of the Cheat!  As West Virginians, we know that one of the most wonderful aspects of our state is the grandeur of our rivers and forests.  We rely on the health of our water sources and the agencies that protect them.  FOC is proud to report that after 23 years of hard work – the Cheat River is reborn and booming!  

FOC is focused on more than water monitoring; we aim to encourage the public to experience the beauty of our historic waterway for themselves, on the Cheat River Water Trail.  FOC and the Cheat River Water Trail (CRWT) Committee hosted two “Meet the Cheat” paddling events in early June, both with attendance numbers doubling, nearly tripling, since 2016.  Collectively, over 300 participants enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Cheat River Water Trail.   

On June 3rd, 2017, National Trails Day, FOC and CRWT hosted the 2nd annual Preston County Meet the Cheat paddling event in Rowlesburg, WV.  A record 83 attendees floated 3.2 miles from Riverview Lounge to the Rowlesburg Park, where the were met with a complimentary picnic catered by the Rowlesburg Park, and live music by Paul Burger.  Registration fees for the first 25 participants needing boats and gear were free, thanks to a generous donation from the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission.  Kayaks and canoes were provided by Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (BOA), along with paddling gear and a free shuttle from the Rowlesburg Park to the put-in.  

On June 10th, 2017, FOC and the CRWT partnered for the second year with the West Virginia Land Trust and Blackwater Outdoor Adventures to host the 5th annual Tucker County Meet the Cheat paddling event.  This year – an astonishing 230 registered participants took to the Cheat River to float from the newly renovated Holly Meadows public access point to St. George, nearly 8 miles.  The record set in 2016 was just over 100 paddlers.  At the post paddle party at BOA, participants enjoyed donated salads from White Grass Cafe, pizza and wings from CJ’s Pizzeria, and homemade goodies by CRWT committee members Dave and Pam Ruediger and Janet Preston.  Live music was provided by members of the LocalMotive, a Davis-based trio.  CRWT volunteer extraordinaire Janet Preston collected prizes for a donation-based raffle from many local businesses.  

FOC and the CRWT are beyond pleased with the level of public participation at both events! The Meet the Cheats are the main fundraisers for the CRWT; money raised at the events are used to maintain and improve public access points, print maps and brochures, and fund CRWT merchandise.  The goal of these events are to introduce the public to the fantastic recreational value of the river in their backyard, and bring communities together in celebration of our public spaces.  The Cheat River is just one of many gems in our great state – so show your pride in our home this week by visiting your favorite spot of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!

New Trail Property Purchased in Preston County

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Finally!  A big win for FOC’s Preston Rail-Trail Committee!

For Immediate Release – April 7, 2015

Today, project partners Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) and Friends of the Cheat (FOC) announced that ten miles of the former West Virginia Northern railroad corridor between Kingwood and Tunnelton has been purchased for conversion into a rail-trail.

Funding for the property acquisition was provided by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways; the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust; and, the West Virginia Division of Tourism.  The property and associated trail rights were purchased from Utah-based Kern Valley Railroad which acquired the railroad in 2000 following the closure of the stakeholder-operated Kingwood Northern tourist train.

Since 2002, a group of volunteers known as the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) has worked persistently and patiently on developing rail-trails on three corridors in Preston County, and this purchase marks the group’s first rail-trail acquisition.  In 2011, FOC took action to bring attention and resources to other aspects of the project.  These efforts resulted in a wave of activity:  the century old water tower was listed as a historic Endangered Property by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia; funding and technical support from the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center supported the development of conceptual revitalization plans for the former railcar maintenance facility near the water tower; and Stan Hostler donated 2.5 acres of property adjacent to the water tower and trail.  The emergence of the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission as a partner represents the project’s final keystone because their willingness to own and manage the trail allows the project to come to fruition.

“The West Virginia Northern Rail-Trail is exactly the type of endeavor the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission was formed to support.  The rail-trail will link two communities and provide a new outdoor space for free, low-impact exercise.” explains PCPaRC President Lynn Housner.  PCPaRC Commissioner Paul Martin believes the new rail-trail will also “enhance existing recreation opportunities offered at the Craig Civic Center and local schools in both Kingwood and Tunnelton.”

PCPaRC and FOC are ready to hit the trail running, and they have the funds to do so.  The Recreational Trails program has granted the project team an additional $420,000 for rail-trail design and construction.  With support from the Division of Highways, design will commence immediately with construction slated for 2016.  A ground breaking event is being planned for this summer.

The groups will fundraise for additional rail-trail construction and maintenance funds.  On Saturday, May 2nd PRTC will host the 11th annual Cheat Fest 5K with proceeds benefitting rail-trail projects in Preston County.  Sign up to participate at http://cheatfest.org/activities-2/5k/

PRTC is eager to get more community members involved.  The group meets the first Monday of each month at 5pm at the FOC offices in Kingwood.  Learn more at www.cheat.org/recreation/trails.

Important (and Awesome!) Changes to Kroger Giving Program

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Since 2011, Friends of the Cheat has participated in Kroger’s community giving program.  We are excited to announce that the Gift Card method (Kroger Cares) has been eliminated and a much more user-friendly program has been instated.  It is now easier than ever to give back to FOC just by buying groceries and gas like you usually do!  For every $1 you spend, FOC gets $0.05 back.  Therefore, $100 in groceries = $5 to FOC…and these rewards can add up fast!

You need a Kroger Plus card to enroll in the program.  Friends of the Cheat’s organizational ID is 83139.

TO USE THE KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM:

Getting My Feet Wet Once Again

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Since returning to the area in September to work with Friends of the Cheat, I’ve been fortunate to spend many of my days reacquainting myself with familiar old reaches of the Cheat River, and exploring a few new ones as well.  I am again in awe of the diversity of the paddling opportunities awaiting the enterprising boater in this vast free-flowing drainage.  I am captivated by the raw, wild, mostly forgotten corners of the landscape that are waiting to help you find yourself, if you can first put yourself out there.  Each day on the river has brought me a new experience, a new perspective:   Autumn color swirling in eddies; spying on a sleepy, bashful black bear in his home turf; the cold, lonely winter evenings spent chasing daylight, with the sounds of the wind and water as loyal company; charging down the unforgiving and breathtaking tannic waters of the class-V upper reaches; lazy summer floats, soaking in the warm sun all day with friends; waking up on the riverbank wearing an extra layer of dew; exploring the subaquatic realm at the Alley.  Getting my feet wet once again.

FOC staff member Garrett Thompson and guests Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastal Trust E.D., and Barry Sulkin, Environmental Consultant with PEER

FOC staff member Garrett Thompson and guests Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastal Trust E.D., and Barry Sulkin, Environmental Consultant with PEER

FOC was recently honored to play host to a number of national river conservation leaders, here from all over the country to attend this year’s River Rally conference in nearby Pittsburgh.  We had the opportunity to paddle the newly protected Cheat Canyon during one day of their stay, and it made for another memorable day on the river.  A number of the visitors were skilled kayakers capable of navigating the unfamiliar rapids of the Canyon with confidence; the remainder rode in one of several inflatable Shredders and rafts.  Several FOC staff, Board members, and friends eagerly joined the crew to guide rafts and share our home river with these friendly visitors.

With the excitement of the recently announced Canyon purchase still thick in the air, the group shoved off from the FOC access point at the festival site to float the 9 mile stretch to Jenkinsburg Bridge.  With flows around 900cfs, which is toward the lower end of quality water levels for small rafts, we were in no hurry – leaving us with all the more opportunity to absorb the scenery and explore the little nooks and crannies of this magnificent place.  With such a large, free-flowing drainage, flows vary greatly in the Canyon, both seasonally and with day to day precipitation.  These wild waters ensure that the rapids are never the same from one day to the next:  from the thundering high volume rapids of spring to the tight technical lines and long pools in late summer only navigable by patient boaters in small crafts.  On this particular day we were fortunate to have an ideal moderate water level for our trip, as well as fantastic weather.  Overcast skies kept the sun off our shoulders, but never delivered on the forecasted high winds and thunderstorms until we were back under the cover of the Eloise Morgan Milne Pavilion at the day’s end.  Good lines were had by all – with only one rafter going for an unexpected swim and quick recovery, at the top of the rapid known as “tear-drop”.

Five years ago I sustained a shoulder injury that ended the raft guiding career that first led me to call the Cheat River home.  After surgery and an extensive period of rehabilitation, exploring rivers by kayak has once again become a major component of my life – this time with new respect and perspective.  However, I had mostly left guiding rafts behind as I’d focused my attention on other pursuits.  This day on the Canyon marked my first time in a raft in several years, and I’d almost forgotten just how rewarding it can be to share a place like the Canyon, a place that I know and love, with people that may not find themselves there otherwise.  I couldn’t have asked for better company.  It was a real treat for me and the rest of the FOC crew to see the excitement and intrigue on the faces of so many fellow river lovers and advocates from all over the country.  These were folks that are no stranger to outstanding rivers worthy of diligent conservation efforts, and I have no doubt that the Cheat left an impression just as it has on many of us over the years.

The orange stained rocks visible in parts of the Canyon serve as a not-so-subtle reminder of the Cheat’s troubled past, and need for ongoing treatment efforts.  Yet around every bend, we saw a river teeming with life.  At one point a large fish leapt high out of a calm pool before splashing back down onto the glassy surface.  With only one river bend between us and the high truss bridge at Jenkinsburg, a bald eagle swooped down out of the tree line on river right before banking a wide turn boldly displaying its unmistakable white markings and flying upstream right over our group and out of sight.  Eagles are no longer an uncommon sight in the Canyon, but they remain an exciting reminder that the lower Cheat is once again home to a healthy aquatic ecosystem capable of supporting top predators.  While there is certainly much more work to be done, a trip through the Canyon today will leave no doubt that we’ve come a long way in the last twenty years.