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Park and Preserve status brings change at New River Gorge

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The much-talked-about plan to turn the New River Gorge National River in West Virginia into the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is complete.

Although the matter had been discussed and debated for more than a year, the passage of the measure in an omnibus spending package in December was a surprise to some.

Lizzie Watts

Park Superintendent Lizzie Watts said the changes won’t be all that noticeable.

“I’m not sure there will be a lot of change. There will be some where we’ve reduced hunting in the Gorge, but I think what the Park and Preserve does is really highlight the four most spectacular parts of the park,” Watts said.

Those fours parts include the deepest section of the Gorge in the area of the New River Gorge Bridge and downstream, the historical area surrounding the town of Thurmond, Sandstone Falls, and Grandview.

“Those areas visitors from around the world and even our neighbors know are very special environments. So those are the areas that were put into the park,” she said.

Watts added the change elevated the status of the New River Gorge area in the eyes of the nation.

“It does state we are one oft the more significant natural resources. When you become a National Park you’re one of the more significant areas in the country,” she said.

The change was pushed hardest by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and later with support from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. Rafting companies and those whose business depends on visitors were also strong backers. Advocates of the park touted the elevated status as one which will automatically increase visitors. But not everybody was on board, as Watts mentioned, local hunters had to give up territory which had long been hunting grounds for generations.

The gorge on a wintry day.(Photo/Adventures on the Gorge)

Robert Seay has fished and hunted in the Gorge with his family for decades. He told West Virginia Public Broadcasting the loss of those traditional hunting grounds was crushing.

“It’s not just about the hunting. The deer or the game is just a bonus. It’s doing what your family’s done where you learned to do it.” said Seay. “I learned to hunt in the gorge — with my father — that’s where I learned trees, learned direction.”

Some have rationalized much of the land which was put off limits to hunting with the National Park status was extremely rugged terrain and not conducive to hunting. Seay explained to Public Broadcasting, the argument is a non-starter.

“It is tough hunting. It is tough country. And that’s why those animals are there. That’s why those deer are there, because they’re not easy to get to.” he said.

Watts acknowledged hunters were the one group forced to make a sacrifice. She said they tried to offer a concession by opening up some federal property which had long been off limits to hunting.

“Because we had some hunters who were concerned about losing any acreage to hunting, we did decide to open some of the area of Grandview that has not been hunted in over 100 years because it used to be a State Park before the National River was created. We will open some of that to hunting to offset some of the areas they’ll be losing in the Gorge,” Watts explained.

According to Watts, about 300 acres in the Grandview area in the lower area along the river will be the new area available for hunters this fall.

As for how much the new park status will generate in new visitors, Watts said it’s hard to say.

“We anticipate some, but we don’t know how much. Covid has changed the world and visitation to a lot of park areas went up, just because the outdoors are now known to a whole new generation of folks who probably had never been in the outdoors. We don’t know how to anticipate what that will do for this year,” she said.

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Little changes to unemployment in December

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s unemployment rate remained consistent through December, in sync with the national trend.

According to WorkForce West Virginia, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.3% in December compared to the national 6.7% rate.

The number of unemployed West Virginians increased by 100 people to 48,600, while total employment grew by 3,400 positions over a month.

West Virginia’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.8% to 6.1% in December.

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Report: Clint Trickett to join Marshall coaching staff

MORGANTOWN, is reporting that former WVU signal caller Clint Trickett will be joining Charles Huff’s first coaching staff at Marshall. The report indicates that Trickett will coach receivers for the Herd.

After wrapping up his playing career with the Mountaineers after the 2014 season, Trickett started his coaching career at East Mississippi Community College. He was later hired as the tight ends coach at Florida Atlantic. Trickett was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this past season.

Clint’s father, Rick was a longtime offensive line coach and for the Mountaineers and his brother, Travis is currently WVU’s tight ends and inside receivers coach.

Reports indicate that WVU assistant Bill Legg is also under consideration for a spot on the Marshall coaching staff.

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1,000 fans allowed at Coliseum events starting Jan. 30

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Starting with next Saturday’s WVU-Florida men’s basketball game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, a thousand fans will be allowed entry to events at the WVU Coliseum.

For men’s basketball games, no tickets will be made available to the general public. Mountaineer Athletic Club members at the Mountaineer Scholar level and higher will be contacted about ticket and parking availability in the coming days.

Information for students to obtain men’s basketball tickets will be released next week and ticket information for WVU women’s basketball, gymnastics and wrestling will be released separately prior to those home events.

Ticketing priority will be given to families and guests of the players and coaching staffs, as they have received throughout December and January.

“We are pleased to be able to welcome a limited number of fans back into the Coliseum for our home events,” WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “Safety will continue to be our priority as we still must manage the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is a start to getting Mountaineer fans back to where they want to be. We have put a lot of work into the Coliseum as we celebrate its 50th anniversary, and Jan. 30 will be a great moment when we can open the doors to a limited capacity.”


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Christmas wreathes from National Cemetery live on as fish habitat

GRAFTON, W.Va. — Christmas wreathes which offered a special look to the National Cemetery in Grafton during the holiday season will live on as fish habitat in Taylor County. Members of the West Virginia BASS Nation and other organizations gathered in recent days to remove the wreathes from the graves at the cemetery and transferred them to the exposed area of Tygart Lake during the winter draw down.

Members of the fishing organization decided to start the conservation project a year ago.

“The wreathes would get thrown away after they were taken off the graves. Rather than having to pay to have them thrown away, we thought why not see if we could make them into some fish habitat and it’s evolved from there,” said Jerod Harman, Conservation Director of WV BASS Nation.

During the 2019 effort wreathes were assembled on PVC pipes connected and anchored with cinder blocks in rows along the lake bottom. The idea was to arrange them so the pipes could be disconnected and new wreathes added in future years. But Harman said there were obstacles to the plan.

“If the lakebed isn’t frozen it gets really mucky. Last year we had a heck of a time walking around out there and trying to get things placed. We thought if we could find a way to place those with a piece of equipment, rather than walking around, it would be a lot easier,” he explained.

The new arrangement is an old wooden pallet with a pipe frame attached. The wreathes are threaded onto the pipes to resemble the shape of a cube. The pallets made it simple to load, unload, and place the cubes using a tractor with a fork.

“Low and behold it work really well,” Harman said.

Harman said their new method allowed for the pallets and frames to be assembled ahead of time so the cube can literally be built at the cemetery, then simply unloaded at the lake with a machine. It makes for less work, less time, and officials are hoping to potentially expand the program to other lakes in the region.

“It’s going to continue to get bigger. We’re going to do more expanding, but it takes more people and it take money,” he said.

Harman encouraged people to donate to the Wreathes Across America program which is responsible for placing the wreathes on each veteran’s grave. BASS Nation covered the cost of materials and volunteers and Division of Natural Resources personnel provided the labor.

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Multiple DOH workers test positive for coronavirus, limiting workforce in parts of northern West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of workers available to treat some northern West Virginia highways for winter weather are limited after four Monongalia County garage employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mike Cronin, the West Virginia Division of Highways’ District 4 engineer, confirmed the test results to MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM.

Cronin also shared there are new rules for employees to prevent future absences; workers will not be allowed to work if they are sick.

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Kaiden Pack looks to lead Greenbrier West back in Charleston

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Basketball teams all across the state are preparing for the beginning of the season. Greenbrier West senior guard Kaiden Pack is grateful that he finally has an understanding of when he can step back onto the court.

“I did not get my hopes up anymore after he [Governor Jim Justice] canceled it in February and moved it to March 1st all I said was ‘whatever, I am not going to get my hopes up.’ I was going to wait until AAU season and play then, but now that he actually has a date set for February 15th, I have been going through our normal routine,” said Pack.

When Governor Justice announced the dates for the beginning of the season, coaches and students were filled with excitement as they finally knew when they could begin their seasons. Pack was the same way. He says that he was excited to know a date.

“It disappointed me that we were not going to have a season at the time. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was so happy that we were actually going to get to play. I am going to get to play with my teammates again for my senior year. That is what I was most excited about,” said Pack.

Pack played quarterback this past season for Greenbrier West’s undefeated regular season. The Cavaliers finished last season with a 9-1 record. During the season, teams had to deal with the uncertainty of playing due to the school’s county color. Pack thinks it will be different because his coach, Jared Robertson, has numerous back-up plans.

“During the football season, we were blessed to play as many games as we did. We got to play a lot more games than other teams. I was talking to Coach Rob, and he said that he jammed packed our basketball schedule. Even if we do miss a couple of games, we are going to have games back-to-back-to-back. I am not too worried about us missing games due to the map. I feel like we will always be ready,” said Pack.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has allowed athletes to work on different skills and even develop new ones. Pack says that he has been working on limiting his turnovers and honing in on ball security.

“I had a lot of turnovers last season. I think I had eight to nine turnovers per game. I asked my teammates and coaches what I should work on during quarantine to be better. During quarantine, I have been working on making better basketball decisions, not throwing stupid passes, not throwing the ball away, and working on my ball-handling so it does not get poked away from me. I have been focusing on smart basketball instead of out of control basketball,” said Pack.

The constructive criticism that Pack received helped him gain trust with his teammates. He is glad that he can rely on his teammates to be there for him.

“We are also going to tell you how it is. If you are doing something wrong, we are not going to flip out, but we are going to tell you how to fix it. I think that has really helped me. In my freshman year, I had a shaky relationship with my teammates. Now, I think it has helped me understand more on how to be more coachable and more bonding with my teammates,” said Pack.

Pack also says that the relationship he has with Coach Robertson is something he will cherish and appreciates.

“We have a really tight bond. I message him all the time. I like to joke around with him,” said Pack. “If you have a really good relationship with your coach, I think you will have a really great season.”

Dual-sport athletes sometimes carry over tendencies from one sport to the other, which allows them to be diverse in the specific sport. Pack says that the vocal skills will translate from the gridiron onto the hardwood.

“I feel like I was the more vocal guy on the field. I think other people looked up to me to be in that leading role, and how I reacted to other stuff. I feel like for my football teammates looking up to me and me being that vocal leader I can bring that onto the court. If we are down, I feel like I can boost their confidence,” said Pack.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) released a new four-class system, which realigned the three classes that everybody has known over the years. Pack sees this as an opportunity for his team to have a better chance of making the state tournament.

“I see this being a better chance of us making the state tournament. The reclassification moved Charleston Catholic up a few classes, which means I do not have to deal with Zion Suddeth’s defense and Aiden Satterfield’s offense because those are two things you do not look forward to following a Monday math class. I feel like it really distributes the talent, and it gives other teams chances of making the state tournament and getting a shot at a ring,” said Pack

Greenbrier West will begin its season at home as the Cavaliers will welcome in Tug Valley on March 5th.

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Herd heats up in win over FIU

By David Walsh

MIAMI  – Marshall regained its shooting touch Friday night against Florida International at the Bank Convocation Center.

The Thundering Herd (8-4, 2-3 C-USA) connected on 20-of-31 shots in the first half on the way to a 48-27 lead and then weathered a three-point assault by the Panthers in the second half to post a 79-66 victory to end a two-game losing streak.

The 48 points mark a season-high first half for Marshall.

FIU (8-7, 2-5 C-USA) closed within two at 62-60 on a layup by Bernie Andre with 9:42 left in the game. After a timeout, Marshall put the clamps on the home team and gave up just six points the rest of the way.

“We came out and said make sure we do what we do,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said, referring to the first-half shooting numbers. “In the second half, we allowed them to do what they do. Run faster and shoot better. The first half we were into them. The second we loosened up a bit. They didn’t change anything. It’s on us.”

The Panthers average 11 three-pointers a game, one of the top teams in the nation in that category.

In the first half, the Herd’s Obinna Anochili-Killen scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting to lead the onslaught. Jarrod West had nine points, Andy Taylor eight and Taevion Kinsey and Darius George seven each. One of Kinsey’s baskets was a 360-degree-spin dunk at the 15:49 mark.

The Herd took just seven three-pointers and made two. The homestanding Panthers hit 11-of-34 shots from the field, including just 4-of-17 from behind the arc.

It was a role reversal in the second half as FIU started to drain its patented 3-pointers and the Panthers steadily got back into the game. They cut the deficit to 58-46 with 13:43, prompting a timeout by the Herd.

After the timeout, Taylor hit a basket to start a strong closing run for the visitors. FIU had used a 12-0 run to get within two at 62-60 after being down by 20 at 56-46 with 17:04 remaining.

Taylor led the Herd with 16 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. West added 16 points, six assists and four steals. George ended with 15 points in just 13 minutes. Anochili-Killen finished with 12 and Kinsey 10, half of his 20.5 per game production.

“They play like we do,” D’Antoni said. “Can be 20 down and win. Can be 20 up and lose. This was a perfect game for Darius. He’s more athletic than most and he came through.”

FIU came back to win the rebound battle 34-33. The Herd had big edges in fastbreak points (14-0), points off turnovers (25-9 and points in the paint (38-24). Marshall made 14-of-21 free throws and the Panthers shot just four, making two.

Tevin Brewers , Jonathan Nunez and Carrigan each totaled 11 points to lead the Panthers. Antonio Daye Jr., the team’s top scorer at 18-plus per game, had nine.

Teams end the two-game series today at 2 p.m. Stadium will televise the game. ESPN+ did not air Friday’s game due to Coronavirus problems.

There was no internet stream either after the FIU video production staff was require to quarantine due to COVID-19 contract tracing.

Attendance, limited due to COVID-19 protocols/social distancing, was 308.

Marshall is now 10-1 all-time in the series against FIU.

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Logan County pharmacy agrees to pay penalty related to prescription allegations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Logan County pharmacy has agreed to pay penalties related to allegations of filling illegitimate prescriptions.

Family Discount Pharmacy, which closed its Mount Gay location in 2019, was under federal investigation because of prescriptions filled between January 2013 and December 2018.

Investigators determined pharmacists filled prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances without legitimate medical reasons.

Family Discount Pharmacy agreed to pay $310,000 related to the allegations.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said when pharmacies fail to comply with the terms of the Controlled Substances Act it contributes to the opioid epidemic causing harm to citizens and communities.

“This settlement agreement demonstrates that my Office, the DEA and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners, are using all tools available to address the opioid crisis,” Stuart said.

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Longtime Berkeley clerk steps down

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Clerk John Small tendered his resignation this week after more than six decades on the job.

Small, 87, was appointed county clerk on Sept. 17, 1971 after joining the county clerk’s office in December 1956.

County Councilwoman Elaine Mauck was sworn in Thursday to replace him, and former County Councilman Dan Dulyea was appointed to fill her seat on the council.

The Council thanked Small, citing his commitment to Berkeley County. Mauck said she appreciated his efforts to preserve the Berkeley County record.  Councilman Jim Whitacre said Small signed his marriage license.

Small is the longest-serving elected official in Berkeley County history and had been elected to his seventh, six-year term in 2016.

In a letter to the council, Small said he’d witnessed the spectacular growth of Berkeley County. He said he has “always strived to provide helpful, honest and efficient service with a smile.”

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