The Doug Ferris Outdoor Classroom, located at the Cheat River Festival grounds in Albright, WV, has been in development since 2006. Beginning as a pipe dream of former director Keith Pitzer, the Outdoor classroom slowly grew into a reality. Friends of the Cheat wanted to create a free space where the public could come and learn about FOC’s mission to restore, preserve, and promote the beautiful Cheat River. As of Spring 2016, the Outdoor Classroom includes the Eloise Milne Pavilion, a native plant walk, an open limestone channel (where you can see passive acid mine drainage treatment at work), a rain garden, informational signs, and memory trees for Doug Ferris and Keith Pitzer.
The Doug Ferris Outdoor Classroom is also the home of the Cheat River Canyon Access site, and any improvements to the classroom double as expansions of the Canyon put-in.
Future plans and improvements for the site include installing restroom facilities (Summer 2016!!!), a new stage, running water, a dog run, natural seating, and landscape beautification. The Classroom and Cheat Festival grounds are available to rent for business events, weddings, reunions, and the like.
FOC’s Building Sustainability of River of Promise (BSROP) 2016 campaign raised funds for the expansion of the Doug Ferris Outdoor Classroom and Cheat River Canyon Access site. The project includes installing two vault-style toilet facilities, accessible for those with disabilities. The program will also engage volunteers in implementations – four groups of student volunteers from WVU’s Adventure WV program will be involved with the construction aspect of the project during the summer of 2016. The facilities will also be useful to Allegheny Trail hikers, and for future use of the grounds and Outdoor Classroom for other Education and Outreach programs, such as summer camps and workshops.
FOC’s 2016 Run For It campaign was dedicated to BSROP campaign and raised the third highest amount for the 5k race in Davis, WV. FOC brought home over $2000 in awards, and more participants than ever before. Thanks to everyone who joined the FOC team, donated to BSROP during 2016, and contributed to our purse for the race.
In the spring of 2010, Friends of the Cheat completed work at the Eloise Milne Pavilion, culminating many years of planning, fundraising, and hard work. Efforts first began on the pavilion in August of 2009, 11 volunteers led by Paul Schreiber worked into the night to pour the foundation and cement pad. Over the long winter, Kevan Damm meticulously cut and sized all the oak and cherry posts and beams. On April 3rd, after the weather broke, Kevan directed over a dozen volunteers to erect the peg and beam pavilion. A metal roof was added shortly after the Cheat River Festival on May 1, 2010.
Doug Ferris: The Classroom’s Namesake
Doug Ferris was an OSM VISTA for Friends of the Cheat from February 2006 to December 29th, 2007. An ardent fly fisherman and conservationist, he had retired from an illustrious career in cancer research. As well as his PhD in biology, he had a very wide range of interests and passions. He was an inspiring teacher with excellent presentation skills. His strong scientific background allowed him to quickly understand the chemistry of acid mine drainage. Soon he had reorganized the database and taught FOC the importance of rigorously checking our data for accuracy. As his comprehension of all of the compiled water quality information about the Cheat Watershed grew, he began to share with Keith Pitzer and others that our conceptualization of the sources of AMD needed to change with increased knowledge about flows and concentrations. Project designs needed to be altered to adjust to the increased understanding of the hydrology of the area. His contribution to FOC’s work was tremendous, and we are honored to name the Outdoor Classroom after him.