Over the past couple of years, major efforts have been made to revitalize the Tug Fork River. Not only are locals realizing what a tremendous asset the river is, but so are our visitors and those working in the business and tourism sector. From family time to giving our visitors an extra recreation activity, the Tug Fork River is finally getting the respect and TLC it deserves. Groups such as the Friends of the Tug Fork River and locals living in communities near the Tug Fork have been working to improve river conditions and promoting the benefits of having the river nearby.
WV Flatwater Trail Commission
Williamson resident, John Burchett, is one of the locals that has been working to improve and promote the river for several years. Recently, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice appointed John to serve on the newly formed West Virginia Flatwater Trail Commission.
During the 2020 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, Senators Maynard and Plymale introduced Senate Bill 738 to form the Flatwater Trail Commission. As stated in the bill, some of the duties of the commission is to unify and coordinate efforts to develop and establish successful flatwater trails in the state, as well as standardize procedures, programs, research, and support for the development and establishment of flatwater trails. The commission is to consist of five members, which are appointed by the Governor.
John says, “Pete Runyon, founder of Friends of the Tug Fork River, recommended me to West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel who then recommended me to Governor Justice. Governor Justice appointed me to the commission.”
John explains that the commission serves an advisory function, as there are several state agencies involved in the process of developing and promoting flatwater trails in
the state. He notes that there are a lot of requirements before a stream or lake can be officially deemed a trail and this commission can help streamline the process of becoming a trail and promoting trails once they are established.
What Does This Mean for the Tug For River?
“There is tremendous opportunity for economic development from tourism in the State of West Virginia and especially in the Tug Valley,” John says. “Flatwater trails are a big draw for family friendly outdoor adventure and, for this area, tie in perfectly with the Hatfield McCoy Trail System.”
John points out, “Our Tug Fork provides a second “ride” in our outdoor adventure amusement park. A river trail will give people another reason to come here and a reason for those that come to ride the Hatfield McCoy Trails to stay longer.”
He reminds us that the river also provides recreational opportunities for our local people right here in their own backyard.
On the subject of what can happen with dedicated leadership and groups taking the lead on river projects, John points to the work of Flatwater Trail Commission chairperson, Bill Currey from Kanawha County saying, “If you want to see the end result of 15+ years of dedication to a project visit the Coal River. Bill, and an extremely hard working group of volunteers, have turned the three Coal Rivers (Big Coal, Little Coal, and Coal)into a major tourism draw.”
In addition to Chairperson Bill Currey and John, Amanda Pitzer from Friends of the Cheat (river), George Levitsky from Marion County, and John Wilson, Jr from Harrison County serve on the commission.
You can find the WV Flatwater River Trail on Facebook. Follow the page so you can be up to date on what’s going on with the Tug Fork River and other flatwater trails across the state.
It’s an exciting time for communities near the Tug Fork River! Get involved and be a part of the effort to improve and promote the river. Kayaking, fishing, lazy-day floats, and business opportunities are just a few advantages of having the Tug Fork River nearby.
Note: If you follow the Friends of the Tug Fork River Group on Facebook, you know we couldn’t possibly have an article about John Burchett without showing a picture of his dog Gracie checking out the Tug Fork River.
All photos from John Burchett