It has been a few anxious days since we announced the cancellation of the 26th Cheat Fest. I wanted to send a message that everyone at Friends of the Cheat is doing alright, and to let you know the changes we are making in our day to day operations.

FOC OFFICE

Friends of the Cheat staff are mixing it up – working from home and taking turns at the office. Meetings are now calls, and I’m quickly learning new communication tools and their quirks. I think all of our pets are enjoying the strange new flexibility. With precautions, FOC field work and construction projects continue. We have plenty to do! If you need to reach us, please send us an email or give us a call at 304-329-3621 instead of stopping by the office.

2020 FESTIVAL

All in-person aspects of the 2020 festival have been cancelled. This includes the 5K and downriver race. We are making adaptations to certain aspects of the festival such as shifting to a virtual 5K and hosting an online silent auction. Stay current at www.cheatfest.org where you can still purchase festival tees with the awesome artwork of our buddy John K Victor.

RIVER ACCESS SITES

FOC owned and managed river access sites are open for use following CDC guidelines. However, we have closed the bathrooms at the festival site Cheat Canyon put-in. We are discouraging the gathering of groups over 10 and will monitor site use and make changes as necessary. Stay well within your skill level while undertaking any risky activity during this time – you don’t want to take up a hospital bed or distract emergency responders because you injured yourself. 

Further, stay close to home with any outdoor activity. Traveling to that special camping spot or whitewater run exposes locals in rural communities with already limited health care. Think about how your actions could impact others. This article from Paddling Magazine can help – but please don’t explore new locations right now.  And remember, always stay 6 feet apart from your companions, on land and in the water!

With certain precautions, getting outside is a great way to stay active, and connected. This article, shared originally by our friends at OVEC, reminds us that there are many lessons to be learned from nature. We may have to be physically distanced but we can still stay connected – like the trees in the forest.

RESOURCES

I am humbled by how others are managing big changes in their lives. For those with children home from school, FOC has gathered some fun, educational resources to help you:

  • Cheat Fest art coloring book printable pages can be downloaded here. Share your masterpieces on social media with the hashtag #colorsofthecheat

FOC Coloring Book Pages

  • Cacapon Institute’s Watershed E-School has lots of fun, online activities for primary and secondary age students: https://www.cacaponinstitute.org/teach/watershed-e-school/
  • The National Wildlife Federation is offering free online access to Ranger Rick – my favorite magazine as a kid! Visit www.rangerrick.org for digital versions of Ranger Rick magazines, outdoor activities, animal crafts, and more.
  • Spring is in the air and there is a lot of action on a variety of Wildlife Web Cams. Check out the NCTC Eagle Cam out of Shepherdstown, WV managed by FOC founding Board member Randy Robinson. For views of a variety of critters from puffins to pandas, check out Aubudon’s top 10 wildlife cams.

In closing, the pandemic highlights many underlying inequities in our society. With that in mind, I’d like to remind you of two important responsibilities we have as citizens and adaptations we can take to keep ourselves and other safe:

  • Mail in your request for an absentee ballot for the May 12 Primary to your County Clerk. Note that you are requesting to vote from home due to the medical reason of the coronavirus outbreak. Protect the health of poll workers.
  • Take the 2020 Census online at my2020census.gov or mail in the form your household should be getting in the mail this week. Protect the health of Census workers. Federal funds to states for things like infrastructure and education depend on the count.

Stay safe friends.

Sincerely,

Amanda