by Beth Little |
Congressman Rahall joins local wilderness activists for a day in the proposed Big Draft wilderness area
It was invaluable to spend the better part of a day with WV Congressman Nick Rahall on August 4. Conversation ranged from the various wars in the mideast (Lebanon, Irag, Afghanistan
) to Amtrak to his expected grandchild, but included our wilderness campaign and specifically the proposed Big Draft area where we hiked up Gunpowder Ridge and bushwhacked (ahem!) down to Blue Hole, a delightful swimming hole (especially in the recent hot weather).
The day started with a scrumptious lunch at the General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg, where we were joined by General Lewis host, Nan Morgan and Plants Etc. owner, Darlene Fife (two of our wilderness sponsors). We were also joined by Lewisburg Mayor, John Manchester, who accompanied us on the hike to show Congressman Rahall the wonders of Big Draft and joined in a dip in Blue Hole. White Sulphur Springs Mayor, Debbie Fogus, was also scheduled to accompany us, but was up most of the previous night with police matters and couldnt make it.
Big Draft is the most accessible of several proposed areas in the Greenbrier River watershed, and is transversed by Anthony Creek, which boasts great fishing and several swimming holes, including the popular Blue Bend, which is cold enough to take ones breath away, even in summer. Despite the fact that the Greenbrier River watershed comprises roughly a fourth of the Monongahela National Forest, there are currently no Wilderness areas in the watershed, and none recommended by the Forest Service in the draft plan revision. If the final plan revision, due out in September, still does not include any recommended Wilderness; it will be up to our Congressional delegation to go beyond the Forest Service recommendations when we submit a Wilderness bill in the next Congressional session.
After enjoying the outing in Big Draft, we think Congressman Rahall is convinced of the intrinsic, if not the political, justification for including Big Draft in Wilderness legislation.
Two days after the outing with Congressman Rahall, the Southern Mon Group of the Wilderness Coalition hiked into Big Draft to the Cats Eye swimming hole where a picnic table provided a convenient meeting place. We began planning for a Wilderness photography show and another hike down Big Draft, the creek for which the area gets its name.