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BOONE COUNTY — Residents of Boone County gathered on April 17 to serve the community and to enhance the ability of the towns within it to draw tourists.

With the Hatfield and McCoy Trail system poised to link the whole county, the flatwater kayak business and multiplier businesses related to tourism will surely follow. With the recent push to attract remote workers for increased tax base, Boone County wants to attract its fair share. The ability of our local residents to sustain an opportunity for outdoor recreation was a targeted goal for the day, also.

The counties of southern West Virginia have been looking for solutions to the trash problem in their region for some time, and about seven years ago the Boone Career and Technical Center decided to do something about it. The school got involved with the Make it Shine Program and began to do community cleanups. Once- and sometimes twice-a-year events were implemented to counter the rise in roadside and stream pollution in our area.

A few years later, the school got involved with the Adopt-a-Highway program. Relationships started being built and soon a difference could be seen in the amount of garbage in the areas targeted for cleanup.

The Adventure Tourism program has also done some outreach into the grade schools to discuss the importance of conservation practices such as Leave no Trace.

The cleanup this year brought many people together on a Saturday that normally wouldn’t have had a chance or reason to gather. Many friendships were made and the power of teamwork was a true marvel to behold. The planning stages of the event took place in the Adventure Tourism classroom at the Boone Career Center with Lilly Bias writing the grants, which paid off in the money needed to cover the event. Leah Davis helped Lilly to design and order the T-shirts, plan the menus, and provide the social media blitz for the event. The Bias/Gillispie family had a multitude there to support Lilly in this senior event planning project for our shop foreman. It was a true success.

The staff at the career center provided supervision during the event for the students. Caspia Sheppard was the nurse/medical staff for the event and picked up a lot of trash, also. Boone County Commissioner Craig Bratcher worked closely with West Virginia Environmental Protection worker Kimberly Smith who came from Charleston to assist.

People from REAP collected all of the tires and some of the trash. City Manager/Police Chief Chet Burgess and Mayor Buddy Hudson with the City of Madison planned and worked with their crew to remove the big obstructions from the river, which included some dangerous large trees interwoven with refuse built up around the walking bridge at the old Ice Plant. When many thought there was no safe way to continue to clean the rubbish remaining on the bridge, Paula Bias and her son Gavin took matters into their own hands and with Jerry Bias and several other good citizens cleaned the bridge piers and surrounding island to where no man-made objects remained.

On down the river, Boone County Sherriff Chad Barker and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection representatives used an armored vehicle and a powerful winch to remove some larger items from the riverbed.

Madison Councilman Arch Griffith, a member of emergency services, and several of his co-workers were on hand to assist as well as five members of the Army National Guard. Boone County Prosecutor Donna Taylor helped by bringing some day report workers and contributing her own hard work.

These folks gave good hours of hard work and it showed. Two and a half tons of trash and 111 tires were removed from our watershed. The local radio station did their part and then some with owner Bubby Brown rolling up his sleeves to work and Joe Linville doing a live remote broadcast of the event. Joe is a longtime broadcaster and a true friend of the river and part of the Coal River administrative staff.

“The Boone Truck Driving Academy instructors, Glen and Jeff, always gets our equipment where it needs to be and are always most helpful in any of our events. The River Celebration was no different; they are the best,” BCTC Adventure Tourism teacher Robert Miller said in a news release.

Amber Miller and friends did amazing work under the bridge, where the Pond and Spruce Forks meet to form the Little Coal River. The amount of trash collected there by these young people was outstanding.

Dr. Howell spearheaded the effort behind Main Street working with Calvin Justice and many of his city of Madison co-workers. Further down the river, Adventure Tourism student Leah Davis, along with former Adventure Tourism students Jaxson Miller, Matthew Britton and Colin Nelson made great progress between the Benjamin Price bridge and the new walking bridge approaching Danville.

The heroes of the day were the members of Trash your Kayak of West Virginia, who travel every weekend to clean West Virginias rivers. Paula Bias and longtime river enthusiast Ricky Starkey accompanied Michelle Martin and her crew, which includes local residents Bill Woods and Scott Ferrell. Others on her crew from other counties came in force — Sheldon Jacobs, Diane Simmons-Lumadue, Melissa Haddix, Lorain McDaniel, Donn Cyrus and Heather Starcher got in the water on this cold day and paddled downstream in their boats to get to those places that are hard to reach from the shore.

The Trash your Kayak crew made its first voyage many years ago on the Little Coal River. Miller and some of his students were alongside for that maiden voyage. Pictures and a nice article ended up in the Wild Wonderful West Virginia Magazine.

“It is always a pleasure when Michelle and the Trash your Kayak crew visit your community, and they do often. They always provide wonderful work for the rivers everywhere they go,” Miller said.

Boone hospitality welcomed speaker Bill Curry, captain of the Coal River Group spearheading the efforts to make the Walhonde/Coal River Water Trail a state park. Tony and Teresa from West Madison Grocery and their wonderful staff provided all with a wonderful meal on the new smoker built for them by Brandon Greer and the welding students at Boone Career and Technical Center.

The result has been infectious, as many are asking when the next event will be. This event was made possible by a grant from the Boone County Foundation and a hospitality grant from the West Virginia Department of Education. A cooperate sponsor or several may contact Bobby Miller at the Boone Career Center if someone would like to sponsor or share the costs for an event in the future. The need is real.

On June 5, the City of Madison will host a river sports event with vendors and live music as well as other activities at Madison Park. Shuttles will run for those needing to get upstream to paddle back to the celebration.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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