Since I am a native of the Mountain State and love its public lands, I thought I knew a lot about West Virginia’s parks and forests until I attended a community presentation from the West Virginians for Public Lands alliance at the Brooke County Public Library in Wellsburg last month.
The WVPL alliance helps concerned citizens understand the policies that affect our “wild and wonderful” public lands and how we can get involved in management and decision making for these special places (Since retirement, my passion for the open spaces has caused me to become a volunteer with West Virginians for Public Lands).
Starting with a PowerPoint in the library’s room that overlooks the river, Matt Kearns, public lands coordinator, spent a lot of time with people from the Northern Panhandle discussing what the Land and Water Conservation Fund has done for our state. The fund provides support for recreation and conservation projects at all levels of government — and it’s funded from offshore oil and gas leases, not taxpayers like us. Some of our local parks have benefited from this federal program, also.
The four counties in the Northern Panhandle have received nearly $10 million for 70 LWCF projects since 1965. Popular places like Grand Vue Park (Marshall County), Brooke Hills Park (Wellsburg), Tomlinson Run State Park (Hancock County) and Wheeling Park have received money for improvements. The fund helped build Benwood’s city pool and the playgrounds in Weirton and Wheeling. And, Oglebay Park in Ohio County has received $1.8 million for everything from its zoo to its golf course, nature center, ski hill and gardens. Though I have enjoyed these parks and their facilities for years, I never realized that many of their amenities were paid for with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
To learn more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, check out a map and a list of local projects at wvrivers.org/our-programs/public-lands/lwcf.
You will see that the fund supports outdoor recreation and public lands essential to the quality of life for every West Virginian and his or her guests. However, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will expire Sept. 30. Our congressional delegation (Manchin (304) 342-5855; Capito (304) 347-5372; McKinley (304) 232-3801) needs to hear from us about how important LWCF is to West Virginia, so they will work to get it refunded before the deadline.