AW Protects Lower Big Sandy with Land Purchase!


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Let’s give a big round of applause for American Whitewater and the Lower Big Sandy. On January 26, American Whitewater made a historic purchase of a large portion of the classic Lower Big Sandy river landscape. Located in northern West Virginia, the land includes 4.25 miles of river frontage spanning almost the entire river left side of the gorge, the remainder of which is already under conservation ownership. This purchase safeguards the river left Rockville Access and portage routes at Wonder Falls and Big Splat.

This protection effort was led by longtime American Whitewater board member Charlie Walbridge and retired Cheat River outfitter Dave Hough. It was made possible by major gifts from over two dozen paddlers.

“Thanks to their generosity the land will now be protected for its recreational and ecological values in perpetuity,” says AW in a release touting the announcement. “As we enter American Whitewater’s 70th anniversary year, this purchase is an affirmation that we can do big things with the support of the paddling community.”

AW expresses its deep gratitude to the following people that made the Big Sandy purchase possible: Bob Alexander, Kathrin Allen, Pope Barrow, Dave Bassage, Scott Bortree, Dave Brisell, Peter Bross, Phil Coleman, Bret Corchoran, Jack Ditty, Cyndy Lee and Steve Donelon, Strat Douglas, Mike Fentress, Bob Gedekoh, Ken Gfroerer, John Guilfoose, Katie Heisler, Eric and Sara Henrickson, Dave and Cindy Hough, Ned Hughes, Chris Kirkman, Henry Labalme, George Martin Foundation, Robert Milvet, Jim Murtha, Nori Onishi, Peggy Pings, Adam Polinski, Randy Robinson, Jenn Sass and Mike Graham, Patricia Schifferle, Dave Smith and Nancy Petroski, Timothy Smith, Margot Stiles, Imre and Janet Szlagyi, Steve Taylor, Mac and Molly Thornton, Barry and Kitty Tuscano, Charlie and Sandy Walbridge, Wick Walker, Jeff Byard – West Virginia Trails Association, Barry Whittaker, and Fred Wright.

The group is planning a transfer of this land to the West Virginia Land Trust who will ensure it is managed for its conservation and recreational values, including guaranteed paddler access and the potential for trail development. Beforehand, however, it needs to be certain the resources for perpetual stewardship are in place. So, it’s raising funds to complete the transfer, and seed a stewardship endowment to guarantee long term management. Its grass-roots fundraising goal is $75,000. Any donations received in excess of the goal will be directed toward additional river access and protection opportunities.

To give, click here and put “Big Sandy Fund” at the bottom of the form.

“The Big Sandy is an enchanting place in which countless paddlers have learned the skills and discipline required to navigate challenging whitewater in an intensely beautiful setting, serving as both a rite of passage and a sublime destination,” maintains AW. “This is a very special river, and protecting it safeguards an irreplaceable piece of West Virginia’s ecology, economy and quality-of-life.”

(Photo courtesy American Whitewater)


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