Tadpole Project Grows Youth Leadership
Friday, April 25th, 2014
While the Coal River Valley may be better known for the mountaintop removal coal mining that has created health and economic issues there for years, there are a lot of exciting community development efforts that show the spirit of the community and the potential for positive change. The community successfully organized to build a new school in their community, when Marsh Fork Elementary was threatened by a sludge dam and nearby prep plant.
The Tadpole Project, which is run by internationally known group Coal River Mountain Watch, has been working with youth in the Coal River Valley for several years now. The group organizes clean-ups along the river, and have one planned for tomorrow, April 26th. The long term goals are to work together as a community to address all the pollution in the Big Coal River and it’s tributaries.
Along the way, the project is getting kids out of the house, cleaning up the rivers and swimming holes, and teaching some lessons to parents as well.
“One of our kids said to his dad, ‘Daddy, don’t throw trash out the window of the truck or we’re going to have to pick that up later!’” said Peggy Bone, who works with the program through Coal River Mountain Watch. ”If you teach them when they’re young to not throw out trash, then they grow up knowing that.”
The Tadpole Project has adopted a stretch of highway in one of the most heavily strip-mined communities in Appalachia. This small but powerful effort showcases community pride and celebrates some of the greatest things about growing up in Appalachia.
“Our teenagers get excited about cleaning up our rivers, because that’s where they play. Teenagers, including my son, are mainly interested in video games, he says so himself. It’s hard to get them outside and interested in picking up trash and volunteering on a Saturday. But they all want to help clean up their favorite swimming holes, because they all swim there,” added Bone.
The group has collected over 800 tires and provided community dumpsters to help people who don’t have access to bulk garbage clean-up.
The Tadpole Project works to protect and restore the Marsh Fork of the Big Coal River. The 28-mile Marsh Fork tributary of the Big Coal River flows in the valley between Coal River Mountain and Cherry Pond Mountain in western Raleigh County. The Marsh Fork, and the numerous creeks running into it, suffer from years of neglect and build-up of garbage and scrap metal. Our goal is to foster community pride by getting community members involved in the restoration of our river and bringing awareness to the natural beauty of our area. We are organizing clean-up days along the river and its creeks, going door-to-door talking to people who live along the river, and engaging local high school students to help with the clean up.
Ultimately, the Tadpole Project hopes to expand to involve the community in other aspects of watershed protection. Coal mines, coal processing plants, mountaintop removal sites, gas wells, timbering, and personal waste waters all affect the health of our waterway. These concerns all need to be addressed in order to have a healthy Marsh Fork watershed. Our goal is to map out a watershed plan which would address all the sources and causes of stream impairment in the Marsh Fork tributary and to engage local residents in stream monitoring and water testing to involve them in protecting the health of our river.