Laura Dean Bennett
If you crossed the Knapps Creek Bridge between the Board of Education offices and the Pocahontas Center this past weekend, you may have noticed a change on the bank of Knapps Creek just below the bridge.
There is a new walking path leading to a wide, handicapped accessible area overlooking Knapps Creek, making it an “accessible fishing site.”
But you don’t have to fish to take advantage of the new stream-side trail.
Its rustic log benches and beautiful scenery in the shady grove by the murmuring stream will beckon those of us who want to enjoy a picnic or to sit quietly and read a book by the water.
This project was a team effort, involving the U.S. Forest Service, the Board of Education, Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation and the Town of Marlinton.
Cynthia Sandeno, Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, Marlinton/White Sulphur District, said that she really enjoys working in this area.
Sandeno gave a little background on the Forest Service’s perspective of their relationship with Marlinton.
“Marlinton is located within the 100 year floodplain of the Greenbrier River,” she said.
“The Greenbrier River has significant ecological, cultural and recreational value.
“Lauren Bennett and Sam Felton both had safety concerns about the children and disabled individuals who fish from the bridge above Knapps Creek.”
“Bennett had originally asked if we could provide technical advice about how to alleviate this concern.
“When our South Zone Engineer, Adam Taylor, went out to look at the site, he determined that there was an opportunity to improve the stream’s health and reduce erosion near the bridge,” Sandeno explained.
“And, while that work was being done, there would also be an opportunity to build an accessible trail to the stream so that even someone in a wheelchair would be able to safely fish.
The Pocahontas County Board of Education owns the land on which the site was built, and gave its permission for the project to go forward.
“The design for the fishing site seemed very straightforward,” Taylor said.
“But, we had to make adjustments once we were on the site with the equipment.
“The final result is something that we can all be proud of.”
U.S. Forest Service used their resources for design, labor and equipment.
They also contributed gravel, straw, seeding and black plastic to underline the path.
They placed a log and a stump for benches.
Parks and Recreation donated gravel for the fishing trail, the cost of which was taken from their “Special Projects” budget.
“Generally, our special projects money is spent on our county parks or on county projects, but our board felt that this project is something important for the community,” Parks and Rec Director Lauren Bennett explained.
“It’s a popular fishing hole. I don’t know if it has any other name – we’ve just always called it the bridge over Knapps Creek.”
“Growing up, I can’t count the times that I fished from that bridge,” said David Buck, Equipment Operator for the Forest Service.
“It feels great to be able to provide a safe place for people to fish and to improve the stream.”
Jenny Henning and Donald Bolden were also involved in creating this beautiful fishing spot.
Henning, Watershed Tech for the Forest, provided additional labor and ran the UTV to transport the gravel.
“This project was a wonderful chance for the Forest Service to partner with our local community to take action to reduce erosion and sedimentation into Knapps Creek,” Henning said.
“I can’t wait to see people fishing in this lovely spot.”
Bolden, Equipment Operator for the Forest, was operating the equipment to load and spread gravel on the site.
“It was a really nice change of pace to get to work in town and complete a project where I will be able to see folks using what I build,” Bolden said.
“They brought in some downed trees and placed them under the bank – the roots will make good fish habitat and the trees will help stabilize the soil,” Bennett explained.
“The great big rocks are called “rip rap.” They’re placed on top to help hold it all down.”
“Maybe we can even get a picnic table in here eventually,” Buck said, hinting of more good things to come.
“It took us three days to finish it, and it would have only taken two, but the weather was bad – so much rain, and Knapps Creek was way up.”
Bennett said it was a win-win for everyone.
The U.S. Forest Service does not typically do work on land outside of the national forest.
But they do have special authority under the Wyden Amendment to work on mutually beneficial projects which result in watershed restoration, enhancement and protection efforts on streams that run into the National Forest.
“The Monongahela National Forest and Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation have a common interest in improving the current condition of the Greenbrier River and Knapp’s Creek for the local community and tourists,” Sandeno said.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton would like to see the fishing trail eventually tied into the Greenbrier River Trail.
“This is a good example of what can happen when there’s good communication between the town, the county and the Forest Service,” he said. “Cindy Sandeno has been really good to work with us.”
Sandeno agreed that communication is the key.
“We are so pleased that the Forest Service could partner with the town and the county to make this project happen,” she said.
“It’s a pleasure to work together to benefit the community where we live and work.”
Laura Dean Bennett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org