Friends of Cheat celebrate river trails

KINGWOOD — Not all the trails in Preston County are made for hiking or bicycling; some are made for canoes.

According to Amanda Pitzer, executive director of Friends of the Cheat (FOC), the paddle or water trail begins in Parsons and ends in Rowlesburg. Pitzer said there are nine access points on the upper Cheat River water trail. The points are owned and managed by public entities, private landowners and businesses.

The water trail opened in 2012.

“We saw the trail as a way to support the economy and learn to care about the river,” Pitzer said. She said FOC had two paddles this year called Meet the Cheat. The paddles were hosted by FOC and the Cheat River Water Trail Committee. The June 2 event was held in Rowlesburg, and about 100 paddlers attended.

Pitzer said during the paddle, former Rowlesburg mayor Marge Schollar was celebrating her birthday at the park.

“Ron Cunningham gave her a ride up and down the river,” she said. “She enjoyed that.”

“People used to say you could only paddle from October to June. That’s not the case anymore. We see people coming to paddle the little creeks.”

On June 9, FOC and the CRWT partnered with the West Virginia Land Trust and BOA to hold a Tucker County meet. More than 420 registered participants floated from the Holly Meadows put-in to St. George.

“People who live near the river tell us they see more recreational kayakers than ever before,” she said.

She said FOC continues to monitor water quality.

“The State Department of Environmental Protection has completed treatment systems at the TNT Mine Site that was illegally sealed,” Pitzer said.

She said the blowouts occurred in 1994-’95. Pitzer said the Cheat was polluted prior to the blow out, but that event brought more attention to the problem and FOC was formed. The DEP currently owns the site where the TNT Mine blowout occurred.

“You can see the improvement in Muddy Creek,” Pitzer said. “We talked about improving it, and now it can happen.”

She said at one point the Cheat River was dead, and fish could no longer survive in its waters.

“Now, we have walleye spawning up from Cheat Lake,” Pitzer said. “Now, the fish are healthy enough for a tournament.” She said a bass fishing tournament will be held Oct. 13-14.

Pitzer said 2019 will be FOC’s 25th anniversary and the 25th Cheat Fest.

“We’ve set a date for a public outreach meeting,” Pitzer said. “The one in Morgantown will be Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Morgantown Brewing Co. There will be one in Kingwood on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Armed Forces Reserve Center across from the old Magnesium Plant.”

She said the meetings are open to the public.

“Just something to think on,” Pitzer said. “The river provides 19,000 people with water.”

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