Wetland Classroom: A liver for the river

The Kump Education Center is starting a new project-based learning initiative in the wetland area across from Kroger in Elkins.

Alyssa Hanna is the chief planner of improvements for this wetland habitat. Hanna is a WVU Ph.D. candidate in biology serving as an AFHA AmeriCorps representative at the local field office of the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Hanna says that the wetland classroom may be fully up and running in two years if all goes well. She is searching for the best trees and shrubs to use in the Kump wetland. In a few years, local citizens can expect to see significant changes in this highly visible pasture area where horses once grazed.

After U.S. 33 cut through the pasture and local businesses were developed, this old Kump farm became a dumping place for water that had nowhere else to go. In time, much of the pasture no longer was suitable for horses. The ground was so soggy that the horses lost their shoes in the mud, and one colt broke its leg in a hole and had to be put down.

In our haste to build new roads and use valuable resources, we often fail to protect and maintain clean water sources. Even in Elkins, we have covered up streams with blacktop and created many areas where the culverts are too small to carry off all the water after heavy rains. That is just what happens upstream from the Kroger parking lot at the Kump Center. You can see Kump Lake when the ugly dry dam fills up after a big rain.

Nevertheless, nature has its own way to help solve such problems. When water is given a chance to soak into the ground in a healthy wetland area, many of the pollutants can be naturally purged from the water.

City and highway builders need to respect this important natural process, and establishing a wetland classroom is one of the best ways to make the public aware of the importance of this natural process. Some of the teachers who work in such programs say that a wetland is like “a liver for the river.”

Now that polluted West Virginia water has been so often in the national news, the Kump Center board members think it is time to focus on the need for natural water cleansing. We hope to partner with local public schools to bring students to the wetland classroom.