Since October 2016, Friends of the Tug Fork River has been a friendly group for folks who love spending time on the Tug Fork River to gather and share their passion for the local nature. They have hosted clean-ups, shared information and tips, and provided an irreplaceable resource to folks in the area in the time since Pete Runyon started this group. Now, things are changing– but fear not! These changes will only improve this group’s ability to gather and serve the community.
Expanding Their Work
Friends of the Tug Fork has acquired nonprofit status, expanding from their founding status as a Facebook group. This change will allow them to “expand efforts to the entire length of our river and its complete watershed,” says John Burchett, a member of the group.
They were able to achieve this goal through the help of Varney Tax Services in Belfry Kentucky and the Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson, West Virginia, who donated professional services and money, respectively, to help the group achieve their goal of nonprofit status.
They currently have a 10-member board of directors, including people from throughout McDowell and Mingo Counties in West Virginia, and Pike and Martin Counties in Kentucky. From here, they plan to expand into Wayne County, West Virginia and Lawrence County, Kentucky.
This change will offer a variety of new opportunities for the group. “Being a nonprofit makes us eligible to receive grant funding,” John says. “There are a lot of grant opportunities that can help us achieve our goals, which we can now apply for.”
The most important change, of course, is that this change will allow them to complete the kind of projects that are most important to them. “Completing projects requires funding,” John says. “Now we can start to fundraise and apply for grants. This is a long process, and it might be a couple of years to start seeing some of the results, but we have a strong, diverse, and well-balanced board of directors that will lead us through.”
There is no shortage of projects to accomplish for this group. Among these projects are improvements to the river, planning for a Tug Fork Water Trail in McDowell County, and the beginnings of a two-state stream monitoring program in the tributary streams of the Tug Fork River.
They will also be able to continue work on their tire recovery project, a project that has already recovered more than 5,000 tires from the Williamson area of the Tug Fork River over the course of the past three years. They will also be expanding this program into the Matewan and Kermit areas, and have pushed to create a drop-off spot in the parking lot of the Williamson water treatment plant parking lot for tires to be disposed of, keeping them out of waterways.
The environmental agencies from both the West Virginian and Kentucky state governments have also come together to help Friends of the Tug Fork River keep their eyes on water quality in the river. “The long term results of this project will, hopefully, lead to funding for sewage treatment and septic systems that will reduce the flow of untreated wastewater into the river.”
If you would like to get involved with Friends of the Tug Fork River, or even just keep up with the many exciting developments sure to come in the next few years, check out the Friends of the Tug Fork River Nonprofit Facebook page.