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!

Run For It


Support FOC’s Team at the Run For It! 5K race


Help FOC bring home the cash at the Tucker Community Foundation’s annual Run for It race.  This year’s 5K race and 2K walk is Saturday, September 26 in Davis, West Virginia during the Leaf Peeper Festival.










It’s fun and easy. You can enjoy a walk around the scenic town or join the competitive 5K race. No matter the pace, every step helps our cause. FOC is looking for runners, walkers, and sponsors. More than 100 cash awards – with over $80,000 up for grabs – will benefit our organization’s mission.

Help FOC Make a Big Splash!

Be a sponsor. Just Give Us 5! $5 that is, to help us reach our sponsorship goal of $1,500. In the fundraising world, there is no better return on investment, for every $5 you donate we have the chance to turn it into $15! Download the donation form below and submit to the Tucker Community Foundation.

If you are looking to add a little adrenaline rush to your donation or would like to participate in the 2K walk, you are welcome to join on our team as a true Friend of the Cheat!  Download the race registration below and join the FOC squad. Before you come down, check out the course map and read Executive Director Amanda Pitzer’s interview in the Tucker Community Foundation Annual Report.

Helpful Links:

For team sponsors

For online donations:  https://raceroster.com/events/2015/4874/run-for-it/charity/donate

For paper donation form:  http://www.tuckerfoundation.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2015-RFI-Team-Sponsor-Request.pdf

For racer entry

For online registration: https://raceroster.com/events/2015/4874

For paper entry form:  http://www.tuckerfoundation.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015-RFI-Entry-Form.pdf


Look at all the fun we had last year!





















For every FOC racer registration, FOC gets half of the entrance fee, so bring your friends and family!










New Trail Property Purchased in Preston County


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.

April is Earth Month – Volunteer with FOC


April is Earth Month!  Earth Day was established in the U.S. on April 22, 1970 to draw attention to the need to protect our water, air, and land from pollution.  Last year over one billion people in nearly 200 countries participated in Earth Day in one way or another—many of them volunteering in support of environmental projects or initiatives in their communities.  For even greater impact, the entire month of April is now considered Earth Month.  FOC has many opportunities this spring for you to help restore, preserve, and promote a healthy Cheat River:

Tuesday, April 8 – Spring Newsletter Mailing, FOC Offices, 119 South Price Street, Kingwood

Fold and label nearly 1,200 newsletters for mailing to FOC donors, partners, and community leaders.  Extra hands and good conversation makes this task a breeze. The work party starts at 10am at the Friends of the Cheat office.  The group will call it quits by 3pm.  E-mail Valorie to RSVP or for more information:  valorie@cheat.org

Tentative – Wednesday, April 9 – Finish Up Spring Newsletter Mailing, 10am-3pm. RSVP to Valorie.

Saturday, April 12 – Adopt-a-Highway Route 26 Cleanup, Albright

Pitch in and help FOC care for its 3-mile stretch of Route 26.  Meet at 10am at the pavilion behind the Albright Quick Stop.  Gloves, trash bags, safety vests, and water provided.  With 9 energetic volunteers the cleanup lasts only about 2 hours.  The more the merrier!  Weather dependent – backup date April 13 at 1pm.  Email Amanda with any questions:  amanda@cheat.org

Sunday, April 13 – Festival Site Spring Cleaning, 139 Beech Run Road, Albright

Meet at 12 noon to help prepare for FOC’s largest fundraiser of the year by joining the crew at the Festival site to remove downed limbs and sticks prior to mowing.  Wear rugged shoes and bring work gloves.  Pickup trucks also helpful.   E-mail Emma to RSVP, offer equipment or special services, or for more information:  emma@cheat.org

Saturday, April 26 – Upper Cheat River Water Trail River Sweep, Parsons Area

Float the Parsons area of the Upper Cheat River Water Trail, removing streamside litter and debris for safe and beautiful paddling experiences.  Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (BOA) will coordinate boats and shuttle—meet at BOA’s St. George location at 10am.  Pickup trucks welcome.  Contact Patrick at BOA for more information or to offer special services/equipment.  Weather dependent – backup date April 27.  RSVP required.  Patrick McCann – E-mail: raftboa@frontiernet.net  Phone:  (304)478-3775


Cheat River Festival Volunteer Opportunities – Volunteers are the backbone of our Festival!

The 20th annual Cheat River Festival will be held May 2 & 3 at the Friends of the Cheat festival grounds in Albright, WV.  Contact Kelli Geswein in advance to schedule a volunteer shift (304)379-8719 or kelligeswein@hotmail.com.  There are many different ways to help, most shifts are 4 hours:

May 1 & 2 – Festival setup Thursday & Friday.  Flag booth and parking layouts, install signage, move heavy things around, and generally get the grounds prepped for the weekend.

May 2 – Cheat River Massacre-ence Downriver Race.  Help Friday afternoon and evening with directing traffic, registration, timing, and the awards ceremony and after party.  You must contact Kevin in advance to volunteer:  kevin@cheat.org

May 2 – Friday Night VIP Event.  Help with parking, greet the guests, and give away prizes at our special invite-only 20th anniversary Fest warm-up party.  Contact Amanda to help with this specific event:  amanda@cheat.org

May 3 – Cheat Fest 5K, Saturday morning foot race.  Volunteers needed for parking, registration, refreshments, and course support.  Race starts at 10am.

May 3 – 20th Cheat River Festival.  Lots of roles to fill from gates shifts, grounds crew, setup and cleanup.

May 4 – Festival wrap up.  Dismantle tents, move chairs and tables, sort recyclables, and pack up until next year.  Helps cure your hangover.  Coffee provided by FOC.


Volunteer at the most bad-ass trail race on the East Coast and raise money for the Cheat!

June 13 – 14, Ragnar Appalachia Trail Race, Big Bear Lake, Hazelton

Join Friends of the Cheat’s volunteer team at the east’s most challenging trail race hosted by Ragnar Trail Relays.  Teams of 4 and 8 will run a total of 120 miles on three rugged loops around Big Bear Lake.  For each 4-5 hour volunteer shift filled by FOC, FOC will earn a $60 donation!  Help with parking and team registration Friday and Saturday.  You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate this epic event—over 275 teams are expected in this event’s second year.  You must contact Amanda to volunteer:  Amanda@cheat.org or (304)329-3621

Kingwood Hike with the Preston Ramblers


On the afternoon of Sunday, June 30th, the Preston Ramblers, a group of hikers rallied by the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) of Friends of the Cheat, met at the future trail head of the West Virginia Northern rail-trail near the historic water tower in Kingwood. Four committee members were joined by two community members interested in learning more about the Committee’s rail-trail projects, including how they could get involved. Although it was a hot afternoon, the hikers and a canine companion had a great walk.

Group Picture

Preston Ramblers and guests get ready for a summer hike on the proposed WV Northern Trail

Preston Ramblers organize excursions on rail-trails and future rail-trails throughout the area for members of the community to get acquainted with the trails and learn more about rail-trail development efforts in Preston County. The West Virginia Northern and the Cheat River CSXT line are two rail-trail projects that the Preston Ramblers are promoting in 2013.

The group’s next hike will start from the Tunnelton end of the West Virginia Northern Railroad line, on Thursday July 11th at 6pm, meeting at the Honor Roll area in Tunnelton which is across Rt. 26 from the school. PRTC intents to look over the area and try to come up with a plan for the trail head for that area.  PRTC welcomes new people enthusiastic about the plethora of benefits that rail-trails bring to the area.  Learn more about PRTC and their efforts at www.cheat.org/recreation/trails and by joining the Preston Rail-Trail Committee group on Facebook.  PRTC meets the first Monday of each month at the Friends of the Cheat office in Kingwood at 5pm.

Ragnar Trails Coming to Appalachia


Friday June 7th and Saturday June 8th will be the day of the intense, 22-hour Appalachian Trails Ragnar relay race. 8-person teams will be running over 120 miles of trails at Big Bear Camplands in Bruceton Mills.

Ragnar Relay has reached out to Friends of the Cheat, seeking volunteers to help make this first annual event a success! Volunteers can help out with activities such as directing camping and parking, and helping the runners have a smooth transition during separate legs of the relay.

For each volunteer who pledges 4.5 hours, Ragnar will provide a match of $60 for Friends of the Cheat’s programs. Camping will be provided for the volunteers, so invite your friends and spend the weekend at this incredible event. Signing up for multiple shifts are encouraged!

Sign-up for FOC Charity Team #106 to help make this event a success! So far, we have raised $540 through this opportunity, with ability to raise up to $3,200!



Communities in Action, Landscape in Change


Appalachian Studies Conference: Appalachian State University; Boone, NC and the Appalachian Coal Country Team Spring Training: Hawk’s Nest; Ansted, WV

The 36th annual Appalachian Studies Association conference celebrated the identity of Appalachia and produced salient points about economic development in the region. I attended with my AmeriCorps Office of Surface Mining and Volunteer in Service to America (OSM/VISTA) Appalachian Coal Country Team; under sponsorship of Friends’ of the Cheat Brownfield Revitalization Program.

Members of the Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT), who foster sustainable food initiatives and environmental stewardship, had a variety of panels and papers to hear during the three day conference. An exhibition hall featured used books and new publications of Appalachian history, music, and cooking; a silent auction buzzed in frenzy on Saturday, as conference attendees – from Universities and Coalitions across over 7 states – set their bids on artisan crafts.  Research papers and journals on Appalachian Studies spoke of the interconnectedness of the Appalachian people with the Appalachian “place”.

The Appalachian Coal Country Team led a panel on the Core Goals of OSM/VISTAs, speaking in turn about building capacity, economic and resource development, and environmental stewardship. The community effort for redevelopment of the Kingwood Shops Property was showcased as a case study for economic opportunities garnered by the AmeriCorps OSM/VISTA partnership with Friends of the Cheat.

The Department of Interior Secretary of Youth, Partnerships and Service, Michael Gale, speaks to the Appalachian Coal Country Team of the changing landscape of federal programs, and encourages the team to innovate and create opportunities for this generation. 

The underlying message of these presentations hit a sobering note, as the topic of sequestration, and the potential impact on WV AmeriCorps programs, inevitably came up. The West Virginia based Appalachian Coal Country Team is especially impacted by proposed cuts to the federal program, including a projected loss of twenty OSM/VISTA positions. The magnitude is multiplied in communities which benefit from VISTA involvement, which averages $35,000 in grant and cash resources raised per VISTA and hundreds of hours of volunteer engagement.

Friends of the Cheat has hosted OSM/VISTAs for thirteen years, and certainly has witnessed expansion in its Monitoring and Mapping Program as well as stewardship in the volunteer-run activities such as Cheat Aquatic Pollution and Baseline Ecological monitoring program and recreational trails, due in part to OSM/VISTA activities over the years. FOC has grown in capacity over time, and is an exemplary success story in the ACCT year book.  Many of the other ACCT partner organizations have not had such a long incubation time with the Appalachian Coal Country Team, and often, the OSM/VISTA is the only staff person. The proposed cuts do not hinder this team’s dedication to their communities; however, many OSM/VISTAs and their partner organizations are identifying ways to adapt to the changing fiscal times and create new means to support the service of youth in their organization.

Cheat Fest music lineup announced!


Spring is finally here… and so is the full band lineup for Cheat Fest 2013!

We’re excited to have fest newcomers Shivering Timbers and Wheels join a batch of returning favorites: Bob Shank, Lindsey & Ty Jaquay of Meadow Run, Jason Jaros of the Halftime String Band, BiBs & Barefeet, From the Hip, Hillbilly Gypsies, Rising Regina, and the Lewis Brothers. Huge thanks to Joan Pitzer for once again bringing such great musicians to the fest!

1:00 – 2:00  |  In the Round… with Bob Shank, Meadow Run, & Jason Jaros

2:15 – 3:15  |  BiBs & Barefeet

3:30 – 4:30  |  Shivering Timbers

5:00 – 6:00  |  Wheels

6:15 – 7:15  |  From the Hip

7:30 – 8:30  |  Hillbilly Gypsies

8:45 – 9:45  |  Rising Regina

10:00- 11:00  |  The Lewis Brothers

Check out the festival music page for the full scoop. Don’t miss this lineup — buy your fest tickets today!

Earth Month Event: Shops Property Work-day


The Preston Rail Trail Committee of Friends of the Cheat, Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Starting Points Family Resource Network wishes to improve the land use of the West Virginia Northern Shops Property, located on Beverly and Sisler Street in Kingwood, WV. The site, once trail head of the Kingwood to Tunnelton tourist train in the late 1990s has since experienced overgrowth of vegetative species and the buildings on the property are in disrepair. These community organizations are developing resources, through volunteer service work-days and writing grants, to revitalize the site into a County-wide community green space.

Community members are invited to visit the Shops Property to learn more about the development of the site, on April 13, 10 am to 3 pm in celebration of Earth Month.

Activities will include tree planting, painting over graffitti, the removal of trash and collection of tires. PCPaRC is seeking a volunteer lawn mower to maintain the premises.

2013 Cheatfest Lineup Teasers!


Our Entertainment Coordinator Joan has been searching far and wide this year for Festival acts and we are excited to announce a few teasers to get you thinking about Spring!

Welcome back our flatlander friends…the Lewis Brothers!

Last year was their first appearance on the Cheatfest stage but they had the crowd hooked like a small mouth bass on a night-crawler! (No offense to you die-hard fly fishermen and women.)  They are stoked to come back and entertain the masses with their upbeat tunes and on-stage antics…yes, I’m referring to crazy-hat wearing and kazoo playing Dennis the Menace!

Check out their website so you can sing along come May 4th!

New to the Fest this year is husband-wife duo, Shivering Timbers!  “Flirting with the blues and verging on  the psychedelic…their songs build and build until they reach an epic crescendo, rock ‘n’ roll is born.” -Dayton City Paper  Their list of venues is impressive and they have toured with or been direct support for many great acts including Kenny Loggins, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Chapin Sisters, and David Wax Museum.  We are so excited to have them bring their unique style to the banks of the mighty Cheat!











Mark your calendars for the 19th annual Cheat River Festival–Saturday, May 4th!

FOC Seeks Festival Coordinator


Local Non-Profit Seeks Festival Coordinator

Friends of the Cheat, Inc. a non-profit, grassroots, watershed group based out of Kingwood, WV is seeking a coordinator for the annual Cheat River Festival held on the first Saturday of May since 1994.  The Festival Coordinator will be responsible for handling all aspects of festival coordination and execution, including:  leading Friends of the Cheat’s Festival Committee; serving as the primary point of contact for festival vendors, key volunteer leaders, and the press; recruiting and coordinating vendors and exhibitors; developing and managing event advertising, marketing materials, and associated grant writing; procuring goods and services related to the festival such as fest merchandise and contractors (sound, security, sanitation, etc.); procuring donations of goods and services for silent auction and raffles; assisting the volunteer coordinator with volunteer recruitment and management; researching alternative parking procedures; updating and maintaining the festival website and social media outlets; drafting/compiling a festival manual for comprehensive record keeping; and leading the setup, execution, and cleanup of the 2013 festival to be held May 4, 2013.  The Festival Coordinator will also work with and provide input to the Festival Site Committee to develop long-term site development plans.  The successful Festival Coordinator must be able to coordinate with veteran festival volunteers to maintain and expand the popular aspects of the festival while balancing the organization’s desire to improve the status quo for a more meaningful festival experience and maximized profits.

The successful applicant will be competent in MS Office and possess strong verbal communication skills. Excellent organizational skills are a must.  Attention to detail, flexibility, and the ability to both work unsupervised and be a team player is key to success.  Graphic design knowledge and experience with WordPress websites is beneficial but not required.

Friends of the Cheat is offering this position as a $5K contract with a potential cash bonus based on festival profits.  The ideal contract period is from 1/15/13 through 6/15/13.  Hours will gradually increase from about 10 hours per week to full time as the festival date approaches and taper off during the wrap up period after.  Evening and weekend work is required; however, the work schedule is flexible and many duties may be completed from an adequately equipped home office.  Festival related travel and mobile phone reimbursement will be built into the contract.

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, and list of three references with contact information by Friday, January 4th to Friends of the Cheat.  E-mail submissions are preferred to Amanda@cheat.org.  Send hard copies to:  Amanda Pitzer, Executive Director, Friends of the Cheat, 119 South Price St., Suite 206, Kingwood, WV 26537.

Cheat Fest 5K 2012


On May 5, 2012, Friends of the Cheat (FOC) hosted the 8th annual Cheat Fest 5K at the Preston County Country Club on the shores of the Cheat River.  This year 117 runners registered for the 3.1 mile rolling course around the Country Club, a record attendance for the fundraiser.  The event raised over $2,000 for FOC to continue our work mitigating the impacts of acid mine drainage (AMD), conducting environmental education, and working to facilitate appreciation and concern for the health of the vast and unique Cheat River Watershed.  Winners were presented with unique ceramic awards, stained with a unique iron oxide glaze, extracted from Acid Mine Drainage.  Congratulation to this year’s winners, thanks to all of our runners, and a huge thank you to our sponsors and volunteers who made this and each year’s 5K a success!

Laurie Abildso, first female approaches the finish of the 2012 Cheat Fest 5K.

This year’s overall winners were:

     Male:                                                  Female:

1: Jobey Knapton 17:05.3                     1. Lauire Abildso 22:39.6

2: Mike Murray 17:23.1                          2. Kristin McCasky 23.08.5

3: John Snodgrass 19:01.3                     3. Lydia Valenta 23:10.0

And a huge thank you to our sponosors!


Preston County Country Club, Culligan, Road I.D., iplayoutside.com, Runners World Magazine, Mountaineer Area Rescue Group, Kingwood Pharmacy, Book Exchange, WesBanco, Alpine Lake Resort, Mettiki Coal, Casteel & Allender Law Firm, Black Bear Burritos, Old Colony Realtors, Downstream Strategies, Preston Memorial Hospital, and Wamsley Cycles

Full race results can be found here, and photos were taken by iplayoutside.com

Click here for full Cheat Fest 5K Results!


Results By Miles of Smiles Timing Services

Support FOC on #GivingTuesday

Donate to FOC's Education and Outreach Program on December 1st, 2021!