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Volunteers labor to clean up the West Fork in Shinnston

by Alecia Sirk


(June 21) Friends of the environment in Shinnston have been trying to tidy the banks of the West Fork River, but so far Mother Nature hasn't been very cooperative.

The first time members of the Lower West Fork Watershed Association planned a trash collection, it rained. On Saturday the group wanted to scour the West Fork's banks, but those were underwater from Saturday's flooding.

But there was work still to do.

Seventeen volunteers from the watershed association and Allegheny Power walked the Rails-to-Trails along the West Fork, picking up trash and clipping overgrowth.

Allegheny Power sponsors West Virginia's River Sweep, which is a cleanup of the Ohio River and its tributaries in West Virginia.

The Lower West Fork Water Association formed last year and has about 30 members. Its goal is to increase the recreational potential surrounding Shinnston's major river.

"I've had some complaints about the brush," said association member Kathleen Panek, as she took heavy clippers to errant foliage. Panek said the Shinnston trail gets a lot of use from bicyclists, hikers and horseback riders.

"We'll come out another day for the banks," said watershed association President John Eleyette, who had scouted out heavily littered locations by canoe. The group plans to tackle the banks in July.

"There's a refrigerator, washing machine and a ton of tires," he said.

Volunteers had also picked up rusty old washing machine parts on approximately 15 miles of trail Saturday, but the most common items found were plastic cans, broken glass and other small articles of trash.

The largest item collected by the group Saturday was an aluminum culvert pipe.

"When the Rails-to-Trails came in they took the old ones out and put new ones in," Eleyette said, adding that he doesn't know why the rusting 10-foot and 15-foot pipes were never collected.

Renee Cain, secretary of the association, said the group recently received its second Stream Partner's Grant from the state. The $3,400 the group received will help with clean-up projects and water testing, she said. Placing some boat ramps along the river is another project in the works.

Members of the group say they want the public to start to enjoy and use the river more. To educate citizens and recruit volunteers, the watershed association is holding a Fourth of July celebration at Worthington Park.

Eleyette said there are 56,000 acres bordering the Lower West Fork that can provide a lot of outdoor recreational opportunities. But as a first step the group wants to get that area cleaned up and safe.

"We're starting to take better care of what God gave us," Cain said.