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Building a connection to water

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

A watershed group hopes to create greater interest in protecting local waterways, one service project at a time.

Beth Brent, coordinator for the Harpers Ferry/Bolivar group, Elks Run Watershed, said connection is key.

“More and more West Virginia has an opportunity to get involved with water issues and we should,” she said.

“Our water is only becoming more and more distressed.”

“Those types of spills happen all the time,” she said about recent Elk River contamination in Charleston.

According to Brent, the Elks Run Watershed In Harpers Ferry is now a Department of Environmental Protection designated “impaired,” drinking water source.

Though it is the only “impaired,” watershed currently listed in Jefferson County, it is not the only one in the Eastern Panhandle, said Brent.

“They found high enough levels of biological contaminants that makes the drinking water unsafe,” she said.

Under the Department of Environmental Protection’s “319 Plan,” there are now plans being put in place to improve the water’s safety.

“There are requirements that stream be cleaned,” she said.

About 18 months ago Brent attended a gathering designed to generate interest in local watershed groups.

Brent said she was inspired by personal investigation into the health of water globally and a recent experience participating in a river walk along the Mississippi with the Anishinaabe Indigenous group.

“The health of the water is directly parallel to the health of their culture,” she said.

“There’s no way to separate the health of the water from own health,” she went on to say.

“Whatever goes into the water, it will find its way into us.”

“The local watershed groups just seem like a very accessible way for us to make that connection,” she said.

On Saturday, April 5 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, The Elks Run Watershed group will host a tree planting and participate in the Potomac River Watershed park cleanup at Sam Michael’s Park, as a way to encourage interest in these local groups.

The group is partnering with WV Project Communitree, WV Make it Shine Program, The Downstream Project, Alliance for Chesapeake Bay: Project Clean Stream and Jefferson County Parks and Recreation.

Brent said the event is a two-fold effort.

With recent budget cuts affecting local parks, Brent said its important for volunteers to take up the task of caring for local park areas.

“Our parks are taking a hit.”

“This is an opportunity for people who care about park to come on out,” she said.

The group will plant 24 trees along the banks of Elks Run as it passes through Sam Michael’s.

Brent said hopes people in Shepherdstown find an interest in activating their watershed group here, as practices like fracking put more and more local spaces at risk.

“I don’t think that any of us can really know what’s coming down the pike.”

More information about this group can be found by visiting www.elksrunwatershed.com. To participate in Saturdays event, contact Brent at bethbrent@gmail.com or 301-793-2384.