By Peggy Mackenzie
Twenty-one Greenbrier County 4-H teens and pre-teens were presented to the county commissioners during the Tuesday night meeting to provide them with an update on 4-H activities, accomplishments and awards. It was also an opportunity for these young people to show what a positive impact the 4-H programs offer local students. At the outset of the introduction, 4-H leader, Robin Haynes asked the students and all others familiar with the 4-H pledge to stand and deliver. Very nearly everyone in the courtroom rose and recited the pledge, including the commissioners, each one gesturing to their head, heart and hands as part of the recitation:
I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living, for my club,
my community, my country, and my world.
The effect was moving. Afterwords, Haynes directed several students to recount personal experiences in various programs they participated in at county camps, after school events or at specialty clubs. They described these activities as challenging opportunities they’ve taken on and mastered. Studies show that 4-H members do better in school, are more motivated to help others, feel safe to try new things, achieve a sense of self-esteem and develop lasting friendships.
Haynes said public speaking is a powerful leadership skill each of these students are learning. Overcoming shyness gives many of them a whole new perspective on their career goals and aspirations. “It is one of the greatest things to come from this program,” she said.
There were several parents and younger siblings in the audience. Family support was also part of the 4-H picture, said Commissioner Lowell Rose, declaring himself a former 4-H participant. “Family support makes a huge difference for these young people in their lives.”
Membership in 4-H programs offer a positive impact for Greenbrier youth on a local level. 4-H offers community clubs, specialty clubs, cloverbud clubs, county camp(s), club outings, Achievement Banquet, and more. In 4-H, youth socialize, learn, and develop life skills in a safe, educational atmosphere. There are 73,100 students in 4-H programs in West Virginia, said Haynes, which, she said, swells to 85,000 with the after school programing. There are young people involved in 4-H programing in every county in the state.
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Having taken over the role of Meadow River Rail Trail team leader upon the passing of Doug Hylton last spring, Matt Ford, an organizer for several Meadow River Valley organizations, said the job turned out to be “busier that I ever anticipated.” All the same, he gave the commission a truck-load of information on what is going on in the Meadow River Valley – better known as the west-end of the county.
First off, he said the rails have been removed from the final 6.4 mile section into Rainelle and already trucks are using it. As team leader, Ford was advised that an environmental assessment of the trail showed there is still some contamination from when it was a CSX rail line. Ford was advised not to let people access the trail and he came to the GCC seeking permission for a gate to be installed until the contaminant is capped, but Commission member Tammy Shifflett-Tincher said, “It’s already up.”
He also said since the flood of 2016, there are still two bridges that remain washed out on the Fayette County side, an additional safety concern for people on the trail. An application to DOH has been submitted for design and construction on the 6.4 mile section between Rainelle and Fayette County for $150,000 to connect the two sides.
Yet another issue is complaints about timber cutting along side the trail by Weyerhaeuser, a timber industry company and primary landowner in the area. Discussions are ongoing, Ford said, to resolve concerns on both sides with the potential for the idea of a buffer zone along the trail.
“It may seem to be a long way off,” Ford said, but he anticipates the trail to be completely fixed and open in three years.
In other west end business, Ford said the Meadow River Valley Association (MRVA) has been awarded as a Blue Point Community, entitling them to receiving federally obligated funding to provide financial support for small community businesses.
New uses for the old, abandoned Rupert Elementary School are in development, Ford said. The Rupert Volunteer Fire Department is developing helicopter pads and the MARVEL Center, an early child development center, has taken over three buildings. The gymnasium has been offered as a space for Greenbrier West High School wrestling team to practice in.
Estry Park received a grant and will soon be a destination for disc golfing, and together with the Meadow River Community Park along side Rte. 60, the MRVA (or Aunt Mirva as he has come to refer to it) has become “a whole corridor of recreation.”
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Executive Director of the CVB, Kara Dense offered an enthusiastic survey of the annual CVB projects, highlighting projections for the future. It was noted by Commissioner Rose that there are stronger ties of communication amongst the various tourism organizations in the county. Dense agreed the partnerships are more firmly cemented now that there are more shared representation of board members.