6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

Public access grows the popularity of the Buckhannon River

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — A lot of times surveys are conducted on what people would like to see to improve their area. Those studies will be compiled and sit on a shelf with no action for many years. Generally the results never see the light of day. Then, somebody later will come up with a great and “unique” idea to conduct a survey on what people would like to see to improve an area. It’s a typical cycle.

However, in Upshur County one organization took such a survey and decided to try to accommodate the needs it identified.

“One of the top things they wanted was better access to the (Buckhannon) River,” said Buck Edwards in a conversation for West Virginia Outdoors. “We thought one of the best ways to do that would be to build access points along the river so people could launch a canoe or kayak.”

Edwards is with the organization Create Buckhannon. The group brainstorms ways to improve the town of Buckhannon and the Upshur County community, then follows through with fundraising, and boots on the ground to oversee the work to completion. Previously they built one boat ramp on the Buckhannon River. Edwards and the organization decided there were opportunities to add more at strategic points a reasonable distance apart. The placement will allow for float trips of varying distances on various parts of the waterway.

“We built one at Alexander and another one at Alton is our newest one. We have a third one we’re going to build at Ten Mile and that will give us complete coverage of the Upper Buckhannon River. We have a couple on the downstream section from Buckhannon we’re going to rework this summer,” he explained.

Edwards has spearheaded the project and worked closely with the Upshur County Commission, the Buckhannon City Council, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to navigate the process. The Government entities have the expertise to navigate all the legal wrangling involved in the process. The put-in and take-out areas are designed to allow kayak and canoe enthusiasts to float a stretch of water which will match their level of skill.

With apologies to Field of Dreams, Edwards was certain if they built it they would come. Turns out, he was correct.

“Sometimes I’ll go by the launch sites and there will be cars from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. On the weekend it’s amazing the number of vehicles parked at those sites and using them,” he explained.

Naysayers early in the process worried the areas would become an attraction for drugs and other nefarious activity. But the areas are well lit, well maintained, and routinely patrolled by law enforcement and caregivers who want the project to succeed. They are winning.

“We maintain them. They look good and they look clean and they are used for the right purpose,” he explained.

They are also an economic generator of the county. Edwards said spring and summer weekends in Buckhannon cars and trucks with canoes and kayaks on the hood or a trailer roll into town to eat, buy gas, and in some cases stay in the local motels and camping areas. Kayaks in particular continue to grow in popularity. Towns like Buckhannon who have a waterway and embrace the floating sports are reaping the benefits.

“The benefits of what we have done have been a couple of businesses have started that ferry people and do canoe rentals,” he said.

Edwards and local leaders believe now that the die has been cast, they can continue to grow the activity and tap into the rich vein of revenue generation the outdoors and in particular the paddle sports can bring to town.

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