Community Input Into the Direction the Mon Forest Should Take In the Future
Back on October 26th, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition held a public meeting at Discovery Junction in Marlinton with members of the local community to receive their input into what they believe should be the priorities of the Mon Forest in the future.
We spoke with Mike Jones, one of the WV Rivers Coalition presenters at this meeting.
“I am Mike Jones, the Public Lands Coordinator for the West Virginia rivers Coalition,” said Jones. “We are here in Marlinton today to listen to community members. We had a series of listening sessions with recreation users of the Mon forest, and from that have developed a report with multiple recommendations. But we feel like when you impact a local community and consider recreational opportunities and what can be done with the Mon Forest, that we need local input into these. And so, we are here talking to people in Marlinton about what they think is a priority for the Mon Forest.”
We also spoke with Jeremy Morris, a consultant for the Rivers Coalition, who was the primary presenter at the event.
“I have been helping with assessment of people’s perception about recreation in the Mon Forest,” said Morris. “Things that they are interested in seeing changed (or) developed, partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and with Rivers Coalition and their partners. And so we spent last summer doing Zoom meetings around recreation -paddling, angling, hiking – all those things, and got some feedback, and produced those things into a report. We are now bringing it out into the public in peoples’ back yards so we can hear from them about recreation in the Mon Forest and in the Mon Forest Town.”
Jeremy Morris explained to the people present that in addition to coming up with priorities about improving the recreational experiences in the forest, he is looking also in how to market the use of the Forest in such a way that does not also over promote sensitive areas. He cited the Dolly Sods area of the Mon Forest as an example where it was pictured on many national media programing and pamphlets that were designed to promote visitation and use of the Mon Forest that Dolly Sods has been somewhat degraded by too many visitors and their resulting trash and abuse of that area.
Morris said that the number 1 concern among the recreational users they talked with was trail management – or the lack of it.
He said another issue that concerned those recreational users was the over crowding at Dolly Sods, while another concern was preserving the quality of the water and rivers in the Mon Forest.
Other major concerns among the recreational users included:
- Access to the Forest, including handicapped access:
- Anglers wanted more river gauges in the Forest so they could better decide on the best times to come fishing there:
- The number of invasive non-native species of plants and muscles were another concern.
- Bridges need to be built high enough over rivers to allow passage of kayaks and other boats.
Morris asked the attendees at the Discovery Junction event to list their concerns, and then once listed, he asked people to come up and put check marks next to their top three concerns. Afterwards the results were tabulated, and for this group the top concerns were:
- The protection of the Wilderness heritage
- The protection of the headwaters in the Forest
- Trail Maintenance.
- The problem of invasive species.