One of the most beautiful places in the Deckers Creek watershed is the scenic gorge along Route 7 in Morgantown, WV. This area is strewn with large boulders, lined with rhododendrons, and filled with waterfalls and cool deep pools. It contains world class kayaking, and is frequented by kayakers, rock climbers, bikers, and swimmers. This steep gorge truly embodies the “Wild and Wonderful” spirit of West Virginia.
Despite the beauty found here, the area is frequently used as a dumping ground for trash. Everything from cigarette butts to refrigerators gets tossed here, representing the apathetic attitude that many have towards the creek. It is an afterthought to them, a place only worthy of pitching their waste.
Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) has a long history of cleaning up litter in the watershed. This watershed group began its efforts to improve the watershed with cleaning up trash and illegal dump sites along the scenic gorge in Deckers Creek in 1995. Since then, they have participated in over ten years of highway clean-ups and four years of trail clean-ups.
Currently, FODC still holds Adopt-A-Highway and Adopt-A-Trail projects three times annually. As the OSM/VISTA Watershed Coordinator for FODC, I am personally invested in the clean-up of Deckers Creek. A large part of my position involves training and leading volunteers in water quality monitoring, and my favorite sampling site is the gorge. I am always deeply angered by the amount of litter that I see in the creek, and never more so than when I am participating in the trash clean-up.
Our most recent Adopt-A-Highway and Adopt-A-Trail clean-up took place on June 28th. Tom Pue, a longtime volunteer, coordinated the clean-ups. Adults that attended the Adopt-a-Highway clean-up included FODC staff members Martin, Amanda, Sarah, and myself, and volunteer, Dreama. Youth that participated in the clean-up included Laura, Tristan, Rachel, Evan, and Ian. I led a team of youth and helped pick up litter for a couple of hours.
For this event, it was our Youth Advisory Board members that truly came to the rescue. Without their unwavering support, the clean-up would have only included two staff members and would not have been a success. Because of their efforts, the group was able to remove 35 bags of trash from the gorge.
Along the highway, one of our youth came across a box turtle stranded on its back in a pile of rocks. The animal was in distress and was struggling to turn itself over, but could barely move. My team rescued the turtle and took it to a safe section of the gorge. This is how I envision Deckers Creek and the role of our staff and OSM/VISTA.
From our trash clean-ups to our AMD remediation projects, we are trying to save the life of this creek, which due to decades of abuse is almost dead, and turn it “over” from a liability into a community asset.