Community members clean up James Rumsey Bridge during 24th Annual Day of Caring
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Across the Eastern Panhandle, over 1,000 volunteers spent Sept. 11 completing tasks such as weeding, mulching, hygiene kit assembly, food packing and painting as part of the 24th Annual Day of Caring with the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.
Of those 1,000 volunteers, about 30 participated in Shepherdstown’s Day of Caring project, cleaning up the area around the James Rumsey Bridge. The bridge is the property of West Virginia, but the volunteers also trimmed, weeded and threw away trash they found in the area beneath the bridge on the Maryland side, to ensure travelers on the C & O Canal will leave with a positive impression of the area.
“It feels good when you drive past, to say, ‘we did that,'” said Shepherdstown Rotary Club President Michelle Maiden, who said the project, which is led by the club, was organized by club member Steve Campbell.
According to Maiden, the club decided to “adopt” the bridge in 2015, and maintain it during the Day of Caring.
“We designated the bridge three years ago as our Adopt a Spot. We have an Adopt a Highway location which we clean up in the fall and the spring, and we decided to do an Adopt a Spot, to work on every year for the Day of Caring,” Maiden said, mentioning she was glad to see a good turn-out for the event, in spite of the weather forecast.
“We had a great turnout,” Maiden said. “I know Steve had a lot of anxiety with the upcoming rain — we were all wondering if we would be able to clean anything up this morning. It was great we were able to get it done in three hours. It makes a difference when you have 30-or-so people helping.”
One of the Rotary volunteers, Sandy Sponaugle of Platinum PR, said she enjoyed seeing the progress the group made throughout the morning.
“We were shoveling, digging weeds — there just gets to be road debris and some extra growth that you don’t need, so I was there along the side of the road,” Sponaugle said. “There were a lot of us out there doing a little bit of work, and at the end of the day I think it will make a big difference in the impression people will get from crossing the bridge into West Virginia.”
According to Maiden, the volunteers gathered together that morning for breakfast at The Bavarian Inn, provided by the Rotary. The volunteers — representing the Corporation of Shepherdstown, Shepherdstown Lions Club, Shepherd University Rotaract Club and the Rotary — held a moment of silence in honor of the victims of 9/11, before heading off to improve the area around the West Virginia sign and the bridge with weed cutters, brooms, shovels and containers of chrysanthemums in hand.
While working on the bridge, many volunteers noticed the graffiti covering lower portions of the bridge. The graffiti problem is the club’s main concern with its maintenance of the bridge, according to Maiden, who said the club will probably have to paint over the area to fully hide the graffiti. Maiden hopes one solution — creating a mural in the graffiti’s place and erecting a wall nearby for graffiti artists to use — will discourage misuse of the bridge.
“Right now, our priority is deciding what to do with the graffiti. We have a beautiful state, and this is a bad appearance,” Maiden said, mentioning the club will decide how to address the situation at some point in the near future.