Coalition rep gives national monument talk in Hillsboro
Hillsboro, WV – On the last Tuesday in May, 25-plus interested citizens of Pocahontas County met at the Hillsboro Library, eager for information about the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument project. The initiative intends to preserve special places in the southern Monongahela National Forest including Tea Creek, Cranberry Wilderness, Turkey Mountain, Cranberry Glades and the Falls of Hills Creek.
Mike Costello, coordinator with the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, presented those in attendance with info regarding what the project is and what it means for the people in the region.
“The Birth Place of Rivers National Monument project is an entirely citizen driven initiative,” he said. “It’s a collaborative process, that’s coming along with the input of a lot of different user groups and stakeholders and concerned citizens. All across West Virginia, this landscape means so much to the people of West Virginia, whether you grew up just a few miles from it, or you grew up 10 counties away, this is kind of the commons, where all people from West Virginia come to get away from, from life as they may know it back home. And, you know, these are some of the more iconic places in the state, places that all of us really know and love and identify with, and this monument project is just really all about preserving and promoting the things that really do represent the best of West Virginia.”
Costello also points out that, according to research, designation of a national monument may also have an impact on local economies.
“We absolutely have to keep in mind the economic benefits,” he said. “Right now the conversation in West Virginia, the conversation nationwide is about jobs and it’s about the economy. And the research is really strong on National Monument communities. This recent research indicates that in the communities where the last seventeen national monuments were designated, the economic growth trends were really strong and we want that kind of growth here in West Virginia. And it’s hard to argue with those kinds of numbers and its hard to argue that, when you put something out there on the national map and you highlight it, and you highlight it not just for the outdoor recreation, for the diversity of recreation creation like hiking in the Cranberry Wilderness, or mountain biking in Tea Creek, or fishing on the Williams River. But also our cultural heritage, our Appalachian culture is on such a nationwide audience right now. People love the music and people love that community atmosphere, and when they come to Appalachia to seek out that experience, those are the kinds of things they look at.”
Those in attendance at the presentation represented a diverse collection of people, all with varying opinions about what role the monument should have in preserving these areas. There was a question and answer session, where the concerns and ideas were voiced and discussed. Costello feels strongly that individual and group input be involved with the creation of this project, no matter where they stand.
“This project, right now, the final details are something that might be a long way away, but right now it’s a concept. It’s something that we’re working out and we’re working out with the help of a lot of groups who are involved, who use the forest and represent user groups. Trout Unlimited, for instance, has passed a support document with some really solid recommendations which, to them, are very important to this project, the success and viability of this project.”
“So, that not only can we protect those resources that represent some of the last best places for Brook Trout, but we can also protect and preserve access to stream restoration or some of the management activities that the state agency does. Those are the kinds of things that are very important to user groups and stakeholders as we move forward, and as those concerns surface, we really figure out that there’s a lot more common ground. In so many cases, the sort of needs, or recommendations of certain user groups, in this particular instance are entirely compatible and that’s not something we’ve always been able to say.”
For listeners that want to stay informed or get involved, more events are being planned. There is also a facebook page. A website, birthplaceofrivers.org is currently under construction and will allow for those interested, to share their stories and be involved.