The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

June 10, 2012

Funding learning and fun

Environmental awareness big part of Fayette County Education Fund

The Fayette County Education Fund has spent 11 years doing youth leadership programming and educating the public by spreading environmental awareness.

Fund President David Pollard explained that the fund was created by the county commission to develop educational programs for the community.

Pollard said the youth leadership program has touched the lives of about 150 high school juniors since its inception.

Juniors are chosen through a rigorous application process and participate in a nine month-long curriculum, during which they get environmental education and community service experience at Wolf Creek Park in addition to other diverse sessions.

They attend the NASA’s Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University and learn about economic development, he said.

“We work to make them aware of the opportunities that are here in West Virginia so they can make an informed decision to return here and raise a family when they complete their higher education,” explained Pollard. “I think sometimes we do a great job of telling our young people that they have to leave the state because there are no jobs here and I don’t think that is true.”

Juniors chosen for the leadership program also receive a $500 stipend and have community mentors to correspond with throughout their college experience, he added.

Much of the Fayette County Education Fund’s work centers around Wolf Creek Park’s Wetlands Boardwalk, educating youth and the public on the importance of wetlands, water quality and birds, which are an indicator of environmental well-being, he said.

“In some ways Wolf Creek Park is a big experiment. The county owns 1,000 acres they are developing as a mixed-use business park with businesses and residences. In it we have a trail system that promotes environmental learning,” explained Pollard. “So, as the businesses and housing portions develop, we do so in a way that causes the least amount of fragmentation in the 1,000-acre ecosystem system.”

Yearly, the Fayette County Education Fund reaches about 500 individuals of all ages, in part through the annual New River Gorge Birding Festival recently recognized as one of the top 10 birding festivals in the world in “Bird Watcher’s Digest.”

The Birding Festival has drawn people from 46 states and two foreign countries.

In addition, the festival draws more than $100,000 a year into the local economy over one weekend, he said.

“The activities in our area that tend to get most of the attention are rafting, mountain biking, hiking, and climbing, but we are brining in a diverse group for birding,” said Pollard. “there is almost nothing like our Wetlands Boardwalk in the state. Less than 1 percent of West Virginia is wetlands.”

The Wolf Creek wetlands were created by beaver dams and subsequent ponding.

The fund also hosts a free August festival devoted to hummingbirds and a weekend fall festival focused on warblers and hawk migration.

Pollard said has been fortunate to receive funding through the United Way, grants and contributions from the business community.

Consulting director for the Fayette County Education Fund is Bill Hilton Jr., a naturalist recognized as one of the “50 Best Brains in Science” by Discover magazine in December 2008, noted Pollard.

Hilton is the only person in the world currently studying ruby-throated hummingbirds both on their summering grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Central America, he added.

— E-mail:


Text Only
Sunday Profile
  • lilly tent Lillys of the Mountain State come home

    When Robert and Frances Lilly settled near the banks of the Bluestone River in the 1700s with their four sons, they might have dreamed it would be a place that their descendants would always call “home.”

    July 27, 2014 4 Photos

  • motion theatre Motion Theatre takes the stage at Vans Warped Tour

    Local rock band Motion Theatre performed Tuesday at its biggest venue yet — the Burgettstown, Pa. stop of the Vans Warped Tour.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • centerpiece jake Days of Jake

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • pickler Running down her dreams

    Pickler says she's thankful for all the blessings in her life

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • vase The Best of West Virginia

    Tamarack’s Seventh Annual Best of West Virginia Juried Exhibition has been deemed a success, according to Gallery Curator Molly Halstead.

    June 29, 2014 6 Photos

  • chophouse couple 3-0-4 W-O-W

    What has happened to the old Boggs’ Bait Shop building and the former home of Ray and Elfa Boggs at the foot of Raleigh Hill in Beaver is more transfiguration than transformation. 304 ChopHouse owners J.P. Hunter and Anita Hunter are a pair of discriminating do-it-yourselfers — and they’ve proved from rave reviews about their new restaurant to be more than just what meets the eye. The food arriving from the immaculate kitchen bearing the titular 3-0-4 area code is as surprising an experience as the interior and exterior overhaul.

    June 22, 2014 4 Photos

  • Hospice 1.jpg ‘It’s a dream come true’

    From the professional landscaping that surrounds the pillared portico to the warm fireplace that serves as a focal point in the lofty great room, very few features of the region’s newest health care facility appear in the least institutional.

    June 15, 2014 5 Photos

  • 052514 Profile Patty Johnston 3.jpg A most loyal servant

    A longtime Beckley pharmacist is being awarded with West Virginia University’s highest honor — Order of Vandalia.

    May 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • full flower table Flowers are nourishing in more ways than one

    Summertime is the season when the earth bursts with life. From roses and sunflowers to nasturtiums and pansies, West Virginia comes into its fullness of color and fragrance when the sun is the brightest.

    May 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • twv director 1 Community rallies around Theatre West Virginia

    Theatre West Virginia is more than just a theater company — it’s a family.

    May 11, 2014 2 Photos