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.
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/
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.
It is that time of year again. Hunters are deep in the woods. Families are planning Holiday festivities. Kids are refining their Christmas lists–and so are we! What’s on our list? Donations in support of our work!
Our new online membership form makes it easy to donate to FOC (and saves a tree or two and the cost of paper, printing, and postage). An annual membership is $30 and only $20 for students and seniors.
If you have never donated to FOC before, we have a special offer for you! Donate today and earn yourself a classic FOC map tee valued at $25! This offer is only good until we run out of tees–so join the ranks of our membership rolls today! Use the online form and include your t-shirt size in the comment line.