A Positive Take on Blue Hole

After a full week of posts, our blog has explored the issues surrounding Blue Hole.

  • Cayla showed the differences in perspectives of students and Morgantown locals.
  • Ashley talked about the impact party goers have on Blue Hole.
  • Shannon looked at past injuries at Blue Hole and how thrill seekers can get out of control.
  • Steven talked about how drinking at Blue Hole can be dangerous.

 

We discussed the issues of Blue Hole, but lets end this week on a positive note!

Students care about keeping Blue Hole clean

The groups that trash Blue Hole only represent a small minority of students that carelessly litter. Different student organizations make trips to the area to do clean ups.

Students don’t just go to Blue Hole to drink.

They appreciate the swimming hole and the hiking trails around it.

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Blue Hole offers something different 

Morgantown is a great place for a diversity of different options to spend your free time. However, many of these options are indoors. Blue Hole is a different option that gets people outside and gives them a sense of adventure. It’s a great place to celebrate the end of the school year and enjoy Spring. Everyone can come and spend their remaining weekends at West Virginia University together.

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It’s also a chance to remind everyone about how important it is to care of the environment. This video shows Blue Hole being enjoyed responsibly. (This clearly was not their first rodeo. These guys knew what they were doing)

 

It is important to be aware of the issues involving Blue Hole. Yes, people mistreat it, but if a few of us lead by example, maybe more will follow. This is a unique place that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Drunk Decisions at Blue Hole

Over the last few days on this blog we have been talking about Blue Hole. Blue Hole is a beautiful and fun place to be on a nice warm day, but with that comes some problems. We have talked about the perspective from locals, the litter and also the dangers associated with the popular swimming hole. So when you tie this all together there is a common denominator, and that is alcohol.

WVU students love Blue Hole. WVU students also love to drink. Tie in some nice weather and this popular place becomes the go-to spot for students to party once the weather gets nice.  By searching Blue Hole on nearly any social media site, results yield photos of students hanging out drinking near the water.

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It is no secret that there is a drinking culture at WVU. Seemingly each day that the weather is nice in the spring, students are out day-drinking. If you add up a wild day of drinking, usually something wild happens at this university. Riots, fights, pepper spray, or in some extreme cases students end up in the hospital. Now imagine all of this stuff happening at a swimming hole, miles off the beaten path.

With the addition of alcohol, Blue Hole becomes a place where this can happen.

Located across the stream is a large rock that students enjoy jumping off of. There is even a rope tied to the bottom of the bridge for students to swing off of into the water. The problem here is getting across the stream. The current at Blue Hole can be very strong at times, and not all students are strong enough swimmers to get across the stream, especially if they are drunk. According to this DA article, a 19 year old student died a few years back after getting caught by the current at Blue Hole.

The biggest danger to students is Jenkinsburg Bridge, which Shannon touched on yesterday in her post. Many students wouldn’t dare to jump of the bridge, but add in a day of drinking and that may change some peoples minds.

Two WVU students who jumped off the Jenkinsburg Bridge were nice enough to give me some details about their jump, but they would like to remain anonymous.

One girl stated that, “It was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have had my whole entire life. I don’t regret jumping off of it but I don’t recommend it to anyone else.” 

The other student went on to say, “One of the worst decisions ever. I had bruises and couldn’t sit for about a week.”

Would either of these students do it again? They are unsure, but having a buzz definitely played a role in their decision to take the leap.

Students have been jumping off this bridge for a long time, and most likely will continue to jump. There are several videos on Youtube of students making successful jumps. However, there are times when the jumps are not so successful and students get really hurt and might require assistance getting out of the water, and if no one is sober to jump in and help it could be a serious problem.

This post isn’t meant to bash drinking at Blue Hole, or people who jump off the bridge. There is no problem with enjoying a few drinks at this beautiful spot. However, as we all know to well at this school, combine alcohol and a large group of people and something is almost certain to go wrong.

So, if you are out at Blue Hole in the coming weeks, just remember to be safe and respect the land.

 

How Blue Hole Could Hurt You

This week is all about Blue Hole and one of the biggest issues when it comes to this tranquil retreat is the amount of injuries that occur.

At Blue Hole the Jenkinsburg bridge looms over the blue water. For some the bridge adds to the scenic beauty, but for others it adds temptation.

It is unclear about the exact height of the bridge. I have read multiple news sources that all give varying heights. The Charleston Gazette says that it is 63-feet high. The Daily Athenaeum says it’s 75-feet, but one thing is certain, any fall/jump from the bridge could result in major injury.

Blue Hole is a popular place to hang out for students and locals during the summer, but when you mix alcohol and heights, which many do, things are bound to go wrong.

bridge

The need to jump may seem odd, but when you watch the video below, it becomes clear that coercion can be the main driving factor.

This video was published in 2013. The young man jumping from the bridge is peer pressured for most of the video to jump, but when he finally does, the landing isn’t so smooth.

The comment feed below reveals that the man needed rescued and suffered a concussion.

On this video, there was a more recent comment where someone complained about fracturing his vertebrae as a result of jumping from the Jenkinsburg bridge. People still continue to jump even though many accidents have been reported at Blue Hole.

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In 2008 a young man was reported dead after drowning in the waters at Blue Hole. He was caught in a current and unable to escape, and a 19-year-old girl was also injured when jumping from the bridge the same year.

Andrew Coleman, a former forestry and wildlife management student at West Virginia University, has been to Blue Hole roughly eight to ten times and talks about his own experiences.

He says that people get drunk and aren’t responsible. “Usually it’s not that bad, but people do leave a lot of their shit,” says Coleman. ” I watch people jump the bridge which is a good 30-40 feet above the water. A couple years ago a girl jumped and broke her back. She was paralyzed.”

These injuries can be life changing, but what makes it worse is that help may be delayed when trying to come to the rescue. It’s not only the bridge that is dangerous, but also the roads to reach Blue Hole.

“There are two ways to get there. One way is dangerous. There is a quad trail that gets washed out a lot. It’s really scary to go down,” says Coleman.

This can be a problem for those visiting Blue Hole for the first time that are unaware of the two entrances, which could cause more accidents, but the ones who need the road the most, first-responders, are experiencing difficulties.

The Preston County Journal even wrote an article about how the road conditions affect accessibility for firefighters. This article was written in 2015, but it’s a problem that has always made it more difficult for medics, firefighters and police officers to reach the secluded area.

Chief Dan Luzier of Masontown’s Volunteer Fire Department told the Preston County Journal, “Ambulances cannot get down to the location from Masontown,” Luzier explained. “So, for example, if we have a patient who has a spinal injury, trying to get them to the ambulance on the back of the Gator can be dangerous.” (This is a direct quote from the article. )

Accidents at Blue Hole can become much worse when emergency vehicles experience difficulties reaching the location and if help is unable to reach the area, it could mean more serious injuries or fatalities, and If help is able to reach the area,  according to Luzier it could mean being flung around in the back of a gator while suffering from serious wounds. Remember to be safe when enjoying the swimming hole because one jump from the bridge could effect you for the rest of your life.

Blue Hole, WV: from tranquil to chaotic

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By: Ashley Conley

Swimming, bridge jumping, rope swinging, sunbathing and drinking – what more could college kids ask for? The perfect outdoor venue for de-stressing, relaxing and having fun with friends, Blue Hole is a sweet little getaway spot conveniently located for West Virginia University students. But what about the locals?

Blue Hole hasn’t always been “party central”. When the partygoers aren’t there, locals have a chance to enjoy the tranquility of the Cheat River, that is, if loud and obnoxious groups of people that leave heaps of trash and leftover beer cans that litter the waterside doesn’t ruin it for them.

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Sometimes, Blue Hole looks like this:

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Amberlee Christey Photography

And sometimes, it looks more like this:

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@arianacalvert/Twitter

Blue Hole certainly has changed over the years. When searching the internet, stories about the area becoming more of a social-gathering scene began to surface six years ago.

Local Opinions

“I’ve seen a pile of trash in the parking area probably about the size of a car,” local Junior Freed told the WV Gazette Mail in 2011. “You can look around; there’s beer cans and beer bottles. Over on the rocks where the kids swim, there’s broken glass. It shouldn’t be like that.”

“It is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Heather Pell-Monahan, who grew up swimming in Blue Hole, posted to the Blue Hole, West Virginia Facebook page in 2013. “Please be respectful and keep the area cleaned up, as it would be a shame for it’s beauty to be unshared if ever made private due to the tons of trash people leave behind when being drunk and/or lazy.”

“People need to realize the (Cheat) river has its name for a reason and is not to be taken for granted,” posted Stephanie Lowdermilk. “Too many young out-of-towners have lost their lives there (referring to those who jump from the bridge). As a local who was raised here, I know of way too many deaths as a result of stupidity that people do here. The river is named The CHEAT for a reason. Respect that.”

Once again, when the partygoers aren’t there, Blue Hole is a fantastic place to unwind and simmer down while partaking in usual outdoor activities like biking, hiking, camping or even just walking your dog.

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Stephanie Swan/Facebook

“West Virginia has some of the best riding worldwide – steep, twisty climbs, unmaintained dirt roads with little traffic & hairy descents, forest waterfalls & breathtaking vistas,” Stephanie Swan, who documented her Blue Hole biking adventure with the photos above, posted to Facebook in 2016.

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@skyed_2b_here/Instagram

If you are a partygoer with plans to visit Blue Hole sometime soon, please keep in mind that leaving litter and other pollutants in the area can not only ruin the fun for everyone, but can also severely harm the environment. Also keep in mind that Blue Hole isn’t yours; it doesn’t belong to you — you are just another visitor. Be kind to the Wild and Wonderful.

Cover Image: urbexbybishop/Instagram

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Blue Hole: Perspectives from locals and students

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It’s officially warm enough for outdoor activities, and Blue Hole is the place to go for both locals and students.

Blue Hole, located in Jenkinsburg, W. Va., is a local swimming hole that used to be a secret spot for locals. However, West Virginia University (WVU) students make the approximately 45-minute drive to enjoy the swimming hole as well. Unfortunately, students going to Blue Hole, looking to party, often results in the destruction of the swimming hole. Littering and vandalism are left in the wake of partying students which makes the spot less enjoyable for others. Local residents of Morgantown are disgruntled about students’ use of the swimming hole because of this reason. Yet, WVU promotes Blue Hole on Morgantown Do It Yourself Outdoors website which further encourages students to go explore it.

The video below created by Elliott King is only one of many videos that students have taken during their partying excursions.

The aftermath of the partying is damaging to the environment. Consider the tweet below:

That’s a lot of trash that is impacting our environment. Yet Blue Hole still is promoted as the number one party spot during the summer. Even DubV Nightlife promotes Blue Hole one it’s Twitter once the temperatures start turning warm.

In an article that listed 7 places that would make your summer epic, Blue Hole was listed at number six. Reading through some of the comments you find various opinions regarding the swimming hole. This particular comment stood out among the locals, receiving 36 likes:

One response was that not every college student is destructive and that some students want to keep Blue Hole beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

In order to get a better idea of local and student perspectives on Blue Hole, I conducted interviews. For locals I asked five key questions:

  1. What’s your biggest pet peeve regarding students’ use of Bule Hole?
  2. Do you feel that Blue Hole has become a place to avoid?
  3. What negative/positive experiences have you encountered since students’ use of Blue Hole?
  4. Why do you typically go to Blue Hole?
  5. What’s one thing you wish to change?

Locals’ Perspectives 

Anonymous
  1. Trash and destruction 
  2. Yes
  3. I have lots of fond memories of Blue Hole growing up, students or not. But I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt, even paralyzed from jumping off the bridge!
  4. Swim, hang out with friends and drink!
  5. People cleaning up after themselves 

Amy Acuff

  1. Littering 
  2. Yes
  3. None personally but I know locals who avoid the area now
  4. No
  5. Take their trash can with them.

George Hall

  1. I have none
  2. I’m a lifelong resident of the area and I can say I have never been there
  3. Never had any experiences there, I’ve heard about it, seen videos from there, but have never visited the location. Most of what I have heard from is people who visited it and enjoyed it
  4. No, but obviously it is a place I should visit
  5. Being as I have never been there, nor do I use it, me expressing my opinion on any changes would just not be fair to the residents and the users of the area

Meghan Buck

  1. Alcohol, broken glass, and “party” atmosphere
  2. Yes
  3. We live very close and usually have our young children along with us… there have been countless occasions where our children have had to experience the unacceptable behaviors that go on down there
  4. We live very close. It’s beautiful and provides an area of fresh water to cool off in
  5. No more partying/drinking

When I interviewed students, I asked these four key questions:

  1. Why do you typically go to Blue Hole?
  2. Have you ever had a bad experience at Blue Hole? Would you agree or disagree that littering is a problem at Blue Hole?
  3. What’s your biggest pet peeve regarding Blue Hole?
  4. What’s one thing you wish to change to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone?

Students’ Perspectives 

Kristin Sodini 

  1. To be outside and have a good time with my friends
  2. When I leave Blue Hole it’s covered in beer cans 
  3. I don’t have any pet peeves, I love Blue Hole!
  4. Having more beer. They should also make it more accessible for smaller cars
    • Side comment: It’s about 95% students at Blue Hole. Sometimes you see a townie.

Sam Gough 

  1. I only went once and that was mainly just to go see what it was all about and try the rope swing. I had a great time but when I went it wasn’t packed or anything so that was nice.
  2. There is a HUGE littering problem at blue hole, it’s amazing I didn’t step on any glass or cut myself on any cans.
  3. My biggest problem with Blue Hole is definitely the vandalism and littering. There’s so much spray paint, cans, old clothes, ropes, styrofoam, and general trash. It’s a place that’s not really controlled or monitored which is a double-edged sword because it means visitors have free reign of the place and can do what they want, but they take that for granted and don’t clean up after themselves and there’s nobody available if someone gets hurt or if things get out of hand.
  4. If the people who owned the land gave the area around the bridge a little more attention with the cleanup, or if some organization could gather volunteers to do a clean up it would make blue hole really nice again.

John Cordonier

  1. I go to Blue Hole to go on weekend camping with friends, usually once or twice a year.
  2. I haven’t had a bad experience there, but the littering is problematic and it definitely takes away from the outdoors experience.
  3. My biggest pet peeves are littering and the access roads into Blue Hole. Both roads are too narrow and are plagued by potholes and sometimes fallen trees for months at a time.
  4. Having better roads to get in would definitely make going to Blue Hole more enjoyable.

As you can see, both locals and students enjoy the public access to the beautiful swimming hole, and the majority agree that littering is a major problem. Even WVU students who go to Blue Hole, to party with friends, agree that littering is a problem, and while some do their best to clean up after themselves there will always be others that litter regardless. Because there is no way to monitor the secluded spot, allowing accumulation of litter, it’s important for locals and students to clean up and spread awareness to the issue. Doing so will make Blue Hole a more enjoyable spot for everyone to visit.

My name is Cayla R. Nolder and I’m a Writer/Editor for Conserve the Wild & Wonderful. I have a fear of heights so I would never jump off the bridge at Blue Hole. Follow me on Twitter @cayla_redlon for Conserve the Wild & Wonderful’s latest updates! 

 

 

Student Dog Ownership Struggles in a Town Covered in Shattered Glass.

Spring has sprung in Morgantown, West Virginia and dogs are out enjoying this weather just as much as us humans. In a college town, there is a strong presence of litter and shattered glass. This can cause unsafe conditions for walking dogs around campus.

I spoke with Cheyenne Albright, a dog owner in Morgantown, about her experiences with these issues.

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Cheyenne and her dog Beauty on the Rail Trail

“There is always glass outside of off-campus housing where I lived. I couldn’t walk my dog around any dumpsters because there’s always broken glass and trash around there. There is less litter along the rail trail, but I usually carried her until we got down there. There isn’t much green space either. It’s very frustrating, because many people have dogs in Morgantown, yet so many people don’t take preventative measures when it comes to throwing away trash, bottles, etc. Having a dog makes me more aware of what I do with trash and bottles.”

I also spoke with WVU student Stephanie Midurski on her experience as a dog owner in Morgantown.

“I recently adopted my dog Cora. She is a black lab mix, so she needs a lot of exercise. I walk her daily around my apartment, but it is difficult to always watch out for her stepping in glass. We go to Cheat Lake on the weekends where I am more comfortable running around with her. ”

 

Morgantown does offer green spaces away from campus that are great to take your dog.

  • Green = Safest
  • Yellow = Safe
  • Red = Not Safe

 

Feel free to add your own place to the map and share your favorite spots to take your dog!

Morgantown is continuing to update and enforce laws regarding litter. (morgantownwv.gov)

If a Morgantown Police Officer or a Litter Prevention Officer finds that you are improperly storing your garbage, trash, or recycling, you can be fined $50-$500 daily per occurrence.

I have personally witnessed Litter Prevention Officers handing out warnings and citations on my street (I may have even received one myself). When you live in a high traffic area, it is almost impossible to keep up with litter. It’s important to remember that it’s not only humans that have to deal with litter around town.

Litter and glass harming our dogs is a serious issue. However, there are some funny things found on the ground around Morgantown. There is even a Twitter that tweets some of the strangest things found.

 

Be sure to check out out Cayla’s post on the responsibility of following leash laws in Morgantown.

Also, if you want to get more involved with dogs and cats in the community, check out WVU PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) club on campus.

 

 

Our Eyes are Bigger Than Our Stomachs

 

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Image from the Daily Athenaeum

Each day, thousands of students walk into West Virginia University dining halls. These wide-eyed students come in and fill up their plates without any room to spare. More often than not, this food ends up not in their stomach, but in the trash.

With the buffet-style serving in university dining halls, it is easy for students to put too much food on their plates and inevitably dump it in the trash. In 2012, the university decided to run their first food waste audit.

The food waste audit took place at each of the WVU dining halls and was assisted by volunteers who would direct students on where to throw away their trash. Trash bins were separated by “landfill” items, “compostable” items, and “recyclable” items.

According to the Daily Athenaeum, the 2012 audit yielded results that showed university dining halls produced a little less than 20,000 lbs of waste.  The audit revealed that 18% of the waste was recyclable and that 68% of the waste was compostable.

Fast forward to 2017, and the university has conducted another waste audit. The waste audit ran from February 6th through the 10th. Students once again disposed of their garbage in the proper waste bins, and then the trash bags were weighed and recorded and the waste was disposed of.

As an employee of a dining hall at the university I think this audit had a few barriers. The first being that students didn’t seem too invested in taking the time to pick the correct trash can. Yes, there were volunteers to assist students in where to put specific trash, but at times they too were not invested in it and many times were on their phones not paying attention. The second barrier being, although students were aware of the audit going on, it was not preventing them from over-filling their plates and therefore still throwing out too much food. Lastly, the dining halls only recommend that students separate their trash during the week of the waste audit. Which means every other week of the year all the waste goes into one bag without being sorted.

Yes, the food audit was measuring the amount of food waste, but what was it doing to actually prevent students from wasting food?

The WVU dining services website has a section on sustainability. In this section it states, “here is a growing list of steps we’ve taken to shrink our negative environmental footprint and model sustainable corporate dining.” The list shows that the only serious effort to cut back on food waste is the transition to tray-less dining. The removal of trays from dining halls has lead to a cut back on food waste, according to the dining services office, but isn’t there more that can be done?

The university clearly cares and wants to start an initiative of using this waste as a source to produce renewable energy and compost. This quote from WVUToday highlights the progressive effort by the university.

“In addition, we will be looking at the feasibility of combining the wastes from our campus food system with the organic wastes generated on our local university farms to fuel a digester that could produce renewable energy and compost. I commend Dr. Solomon for his efforts in helping our campus to become a model for sustainable practices.” – Tim Phibbs, Davis College. 

Beyond the university, it starts with accountability, and students need to be more conscientious of the amount of food they take. With a collective initiative to cut back on the amount of food students take at one time, the amount of waste the university yields could be cut dramatically. Or perhaps, the problem will just solve itself. With the ability to use Mountie Bounty at various locations across town, and the construction of Evansdale Crossings, dining hall numbers are down and perhaps will become obsolete within the next few years anyway.

 

West Virginia University’s Recycling Benchmarks that You May Have Missed

In our busy lives it’s sometimes hard to remember to take the extra time to recycle, but West Virginia University has made some improvements to help get everyone started and to help increase the amount recycled on and off campus.

Within the last year, the university has implemented new methods to help improve recycling on campus. According to Stephanie Toothman, a Conservation Specialist in the Office of Sustainability at West Virginia University,  the university switched to single stream recycling. This means that instead of having to separate recycled materials, they can all be combined when being collected.

On top of switching to single stream recycling, the university has also begun requiring employees to take out their own trash and recyclables. These methods were modeled after other schools. “It is becoming more of a common practice. We took it to the next level. We implemented an ’empty your own trash’ policy at the same time,” says Toothman, “By implementing [these methods] more recycling was actually happening. People are more mindful when you put the responsibility on the employees.”

Employees were issued two bins. One meant for recycled materials and the other for trash. They are responsible for taking them to designated areas. According to Toothman, now that maintenance employees are no longer going into each individual office to empty bins, they have more time for other duties such as cleaning stairwells, carpets, etc. more frequently, which helps to promote cleanliness in campus buildings.

When the university implemented single stream recycling and ‘take out your own trash’ methods, the office of sustainability only expected a 35 percent increase in recycled materials. To their surprise, West Virginia University actually increased its materials recycled by 60 percent. It almost doubled compared to what they expected! Toothman says, “The highest we had heard was 35 and we thought, ‘Hey, that’d be great!’ After one year of data we were ecstatic to see 60 percent.”

The university has also begun new trends for move in and move out day and has even started issuing each dorm room with its own recycling bin. I wish we had that when I was a freshman, but better late than never.

On move in days, the Office of Sustainability realized that a lot of cardboard was being thrown away from students unpacking. Out of the total recycled on campus, cardboard makes up more than 50 percent of materials. Now, on move in days they collect cardboard from students to recycle. In 2016 the university recycled 11 tons of cardboard on move in day.

The university has also started taking students’ unwanted materials when they move out, such as mini fridges, clothes, furniture, etc. The event is called Blue and Gold Mine Sale and materials are collected and then put in a type of yard sale. The university collaborates with United Way, and all proceeds earned from the yard sale are then given to United Way. In 2016 the university raised $14,000 and helped keep 25 tons from being sent to a landfill.

One of the most exciting things, in my opinion, is that W.V.U. is  currently participating in a recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition began in February and lasts eight weeks. In the ‘Totaled Recycled’ category, W.V.U. has collected 256,130 pounds of materials and ranked 54th out of 202. Under ‘Waste Minimization, we have ranked 34th out of 125. There were 350 universities entered in the competition. Toothman says that the event was hosted on the concept of an even playing field. Since there were different student populations for each university, it was taken into consideration when judging the final amount recycled.

Apart from recycling, the university has also been researching ways to conserve electricity usage by monitoring meters across campus. It also provides recycling options for electronics through collaboration with a private electronics vendor, alkaline battery recycling and four outdoor textile recycling stations. The textile stations are located near Stansbury Hall, the Student Recreation Center, Mountaineer Station and Health Sciences. These stations are available to the public.

A lot of new students come and go at West Virginia University, so Toothman says that it can be hard to get the word out and keep it out. At least every four years there is a new whole new batch of students and it can be difficult to keep them informed.

Toothman gives presentations weekly to during new employee orientations to help inform them of the university’s recycling and trash program. She says, “I think that it’s been really helpful because they are learning immediately.”

“President Gee mentions this often, that we are one W.V.U. When we all get on board, great things will happen,” says Toothman, and I would have to agree based on these results.

If you don’t happen to recycle through the university, here are a few locations that will accept recyclable materials in Morgantown.

Shannon Stanley wishes you a happy Wednesday and hopes that you stay dry during this rainy week. You can follow me on twitter if you’d like to see more of my work or thoughts. 

Poor water quality in Mon County puts a damper on recreational activities

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By: Ashley Conley

With the naked eye alone, it’s not always easy to comprehend what’s bubbling on or under the surface of a body of water. But right now in Monongalia County, it’s more visually evident than ever that some popular water sources are suffering from substantial pollution.

“For example, Deckers Creek near Marilla Park can run orange from acid mine drainage,” said Reed College of Media assistant professor Emily Corio, who co-created the WVU StreamLab Project that allows students to monitor water quality on their own with DIY devices. “(The water) is not inviting . . . and in my opinion, I think the appearance of area waterways impacts the community’s desire to engage in water activities.”

Loaded with beautiful rocks and a handful of waterfalls, the Deckers Creek tributary should be a welcoming body for fishermen, personal boaters (like kayakers) and those who enjoy taking strolls down the adjacent walking trail, but the continued spread of pollution has began to alter its beauty and damage its intriguing essence.

According to deckerscreek.org – a site dedicated to the Creek’s conservation — acid mine drainage (from West Virginia coal mines) is the most common pollutant to the tributary, but it’s not the only one. Stormwater runoff, straight pipes, sewage overflows, illegal dumping and hazardous waste have created a potentially toxic environment for both humans and wildlife.

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Pollution impact on Deckers Creek in the Morgantown area. (Image Credit: deckerscreek.org)

Would YOU be comfortable partaking in recreational activities in or around a waterway polluted by all these things?

Connor Cunningham, a sophomore at WVU double majoring in wildlife and fisheries and minoring in conservation and environmental protection, says a host of popular public access points to waterways in the Morgantown area are also experiencing rapid pollution, which is likely deterring students and residents from partaking in fishing, which is something he does frequently.

“Deckers creek, the Morgantown Lock and Dam, and the Mon Power Plant all have problems with storm pollution that brings pollutants and trash into their systems,” Cunningham said. “The (water near) the power plant is interesting because they dump warm water into the river and fish tend to stay near it when it’s colder (which can harm their natural balance). There’s also a sewer that empties into the river, which is pretty gross.”

Gross seems like quite the understatement. Luckily, a few local groups are doing everything they can to help clean up these invaluable bodies of water.

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Trash collected in Morgantown this Saturday by more than 200 volunteers. (Image Credit: FODC_WV/Twitter)

Friends of Deckers Creek does a pretty good job at cleaning that stream but it’s pretty hard as it’s such a big creek and runs through the heart of Morgantown,” Cunningham said. “The WVU Fly Fishing Club has also helped clean it up before.”

Both of those organization’s websites describe them as conservation-oriented with a common goal — to preserve and protect.

Professor Corio strongly believes that students and all people who live in or visit the Morgantown area can have a personal hand in the conservation process.

“People do contribute directly to pollution in the waterways and litter is one example,” she said. “They can also be part of the solution by helping to clean up litter and by not littering in the first place.”

Cover Image: uppermon.org

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Follow Doggone Leash Laws

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Warm weather invites pet owners to take their dog(s) for walks on the beautiful trails in Morgantown, W. Va. but those who disregard leash laws ruin it for the rest of us.

Dogs walking on leashes

Image Credit: Cayla R. Nolder

Dogs off leash can not only be a nuisance to other pet owners but can also become a liability. “How can my dog be a liability? They come when I recall,” is just one of the frequent excuses another pet owner may give you. And to top off your frustration, the owner visibly is holding a coiled up leash in their hand; yet, the dog isn’t on the leash.

In the well-written article Should I Leash My Dog by Jessica Dolce, it specifically addresses why leashes are important when walking your dog. For one, if it is a law then you should abide by the law. Dolce put it simply by comparing leash laws to stoplights. You have to stop when the light turns red, thus running a red light can result in accidents that may cause harm to yourself and others. Dolce said, “Leash laws exist to keep all of us safe, including our dogs. They help create public spaces that are safe and welcoming to everyone, including the elderly, children, and the disabled.” The post received a total of 58 comments from other pet owners — the majority agreeing with Dolce’s standpoint.

If you’re still questioning when it’s appropriate to leash your dog, Dolce shared an amazing infographic created by Jenny Williams that should help you make the right choice.

flowchart

Download and print the pdf to share! Note: this is not available for commercial use. Jenny Williams gets all the props for this one. Please be sure to give her credit and check out her site: ShouldILeashMyDog.com for more!

Although West Virginia does not have a leash law, the West Virginia Code states:

§19-20-13. Dog running at large; liability of owner.
Any owner or keeper of any dog who permits such dog to run at large shall be liable for any damages inflicted upon the person or property of another by such dog while so running at large.

However, further actions can be taken by your city and community. For instance, The City of Morgantown has set of Codes that its citizens ought to follow regarding pet and human safety. It states,

505.1(b) No person being the owner of or having charge of any dog shall permit it to run at large upon any public place or upon the premises of another. Dogs not confined on the owner’s property shall be maintained on a leash of a length no longer than six feet. The name and address of the owner and the City tax tag shall be attached to the collars of dogs at all times.

When pet owners that continue to disregard these laws and/or codes cause problems for other pet owners, and it’s not hard to find disgruntled pet owners — just go to Twitter and type in #leashlaw. Here are some of the most recent #leashlaw tweets:

Take note of the last tweet posted by Pamela Easton. Easton tweeted a story that Dolce posted to her blog notes from a dog walker: stories from the sidewalk on January 4, 2012. While the story may be from a few years ago, it’s a heartwrenching tale that emphasizes the importance of a leash.

To gain further insight into what it’s like to be a pet owner in Morgantown, W. Va. I interviewed three residents that frequently take their dogs for walks. Brittany Dick, Dr. Diana Martinelli, and Brittney Glover. Three main questions were asked during the interview:

  1. Have you ever been approached by an unleashed dog? If so, what happened?
  2. How did you react? Was the other pet owner able to regain control of their dog?
  3. Where do you typically walk your dogs in Morgantown, and do you avoid particular trails for this reason?

Brittany DickWriter/Editor at the WVU Extension Service 

girl and dogs

Image provided by Brittany Dick

When other dog owners have their dogs unleashed it makes my life very difficult. My oldest 60 lb male dog is temperamental and has a history of aggression with certain dogs. I always keep my boys leashed whether we are out on public trails or in our front yard.

There have been several times when people have let their dogs outside to use the bathroom but refused to have their dogs leashed. Then their dogs come running up to mine, resulting in a dog fight that I’m left to break apart.

Now that I’m in my second trimester of pregnancy, walking two dogs on my own — dog owners neglecting to keep their dogs leashed — can be especially tricky and sometimes put me in a dangerous situation.

Dr. Diana Martinelli  —  Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) Associate Dean, Associate Professor, Widmeyer Professor in Public Relations

omega twitter

Omega was once attacked by another dog.  It was Easter Sunday a couple of years ago, and we were out of town, so a colleague was watching her at his house. He had her on the leash and was walking her to his car on his property to go to the park, and a neighbor’s dog, who was let out alone, left his property and attacked her.  She was bleeding, so my colleague took her to the emergency vet, who gave her painkillers and antibiotics.  My poor colleague sat at the vet for more than two hours with her, and it cost us around  $150

We tried contacting the dog’s owner, who never responded to our calls and who even “returned to sender” the letter we sent to his house. 

Other than that incident (which was traumatic, and now Omega does sometimes display leash reactivity when around other dogs, and I’ve had to work with her on that issue), we have not had any other incidents.  I typically walk Omega on the rail trails and try to find areas that aren’t heavily populated just to avoid any potential problems. 

Brittney Glover Veterinary Nurse Assistant at Animal Medical Center with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Nutrition from WVU

Nova and Brittney

Image Credit: Cayla R. Nolder

I’ve had unleashed dogs approach me while walking my dogs which are always on a leash. In each case, the owner attempts calling the dog back to them but fails. In one situation I was able to yell at the dog and startle it enough to break the concentration that it had on my dogs, which lead to the dog retreating to its owner. However, in another situation, I was unable to break the dog’s concentration which then led to a dog fight. In defense for myself and my dog, I began yelling while trying to keep myself between the two dogs until the owner was able to physically restrain his dog again.

When you walk your dog on a leash everything is being perceived/communicated through that leash. A dog can sense when you’re nervous, scared, or relaxed by the tension and your reactivity by how you control their leash. A dog’s reactivity can vary drastically depending on the dog and the stimulus that triggers the reaction. A reaction on the dogs part can be an act of aggression, fear, anxiety, or anxiousness. You have to be able to pinpoint the trigger to resolve a reaction on the leash. Each dog has a different threshold (the distance in which they can tolerate a stimulus). A dog may also exasperate an on leash reaction if they sense you are nervous or fearful. For example, if your passing a dog that starts barking at your dog, and you know your dog is nervous and will most likely bark, but your dog has stayed quiet and then you yank on the leash and your dog starts pulling and barking back, it’s because you most likely caused that reaction due to the fact that you applied pressure to the leash without the proper cause. If you had continued to pass without interfering with the good behavior you may not have created a negative situation. It’s important not to react until your dog reacts to correct a behavior, otherwise, you could be causing the reaction by pulling on the leash.

If I know I have an aggressive dog, I will avoid dog parks and narrow hiking trail to minimize a negative situation. If I have a friendly dog, I tend to evaluate each dog’s (mine, as well as others, approaching) body language/behavior to make sure any interaction will be positive. If I’m uncomfortable with any situation I remove my dogs.

The best way to remove yourself from a situation or keep your dog is to speak up! The average dog running towards you off leash will cower if you yell directly at them with an aggressive stance. If you can see the owner and the dog in the distance, don’t be afraid to yell something like, “Hey can you leash your dog so I can pass please,” or “Hey I have my dogs with me, there not dog-friendly?” Be loud make your presence known. Carry a whistle if you’re hiking or on the trails, this can also be enough to startle a dog from approaching. If the whistle doesn’t deter the dog it will at least alert other people that my look your way should you need help in the event of a dog fight. The hardest part of using your voice to yell at a dog that is running towards you is overcoming the body’s natural flight or fight mode.

 

The difference between a dog park and anywhere else is simple. When you enter a dog park you relinquish the right to take legal action or for there to be consequences if you or your dog are attacked or injured. You enter at your own risk. You enter a dog park without knowing if another dog is aggressive or has a trigger which can lead to a fight. A dog park gives a dog free will and a dog, even well behaved, can become agitated and snap without warning.

 

Any place other than a dog park, by law, your dog must remain on a leash for your safety, your dog’s safety, and the safety of others. You have control of your dog when it’s leashed and you are responsible for your dog’s actions. A leashed dog is a safe dog.

In sum, being a pet owner — simply enjoying a warm weather day — means being alert to the surroundings of your environment when walking your pets because there will always be those who disregard leash laws or codes. Remember to be respectful of other pet owners and ask yourself if having your dog off leash is worth the risk.

Please comment and share your experience regarding doggone leash laws! Use the hashtags #leashlaw #conserveWW when you share this with your friends and family.

 

My name is Cayla R. Nolder and I’m a Writer/Editor for Conserving the Wild & Wonderful. I’ve broken up dog fights and I’m not a fan! Follow me on Twitter to get the latest Conserve the Wild and Wonderful updates @cayla_redlon.