Most of us know kids are spending less time outdoors than they were 50 years ago. I know when I got home from school, I would put down my books, quickly change clothes, and head out the door for some kind of outdoor activity, weather permitting. Even when the weather was unfavorable, most of the neighborhood kids would be playing baseball, basketball, football (tackle or touch) in a local open field or lot. On weekends, we were often exploring the hills behind the city of Dunbar, where we grew up.
My, how times have changed. The time kids spend roaming parks, streams, or forests has been reduced to other sports of organized play under the watchful supervision of adults. To some extent, this is good. However, some kids quickly become bored when they run out of things to do within the confines of a yard. This is when they go indoors to watch television or amuse themselves with computer games. When they get tired of doing this, their minds start thinking about doing things that are delinquent, sometimes drugs, even vandalism, or some kind of unfavorable behavior that only gets them into trouble. As adults, we know this is not new news and reversing this trend has to be a real challenge.
The Mountaineer Chapter Izaak Walton League is well-positioned and ready to meet this challenge head-on. This year, the chapter has all kinds of youth programs on tap to get the youth of this area interested in fishing, hunting, target shooting, or some other kind of outdoor activity.
This past month, the chapter sponsored the Fifth Grade Science Field Day. This is a cooperative program between the Randolph County Board of Education, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Forest Service, The Mountaineer Institute, and the members of the Mountaineer Chapter IWLA.
Each spring, all Randolph County fifth grade students are divided into several groups of about 50 students. Each group spends a full day at the Izaak Walton League facilities on Files Creek, where several different nature-related and conservation classes are taught by professionals. The Mountaineer Chapter provides the clubhouse, plus more than 1,100 acres of land that include two native brook trout streams for use in classes. In addition to this, the chapter provides a free lunch for the 350 students, 100 teachers and assistants each year.
This program is extremely popular with the students and Randolph County school teachers. As time goes on, it has provided opportunities for every Randolph County student to be exposed to nature and conservation in action. It also makes students, parents, and county teachers aware of the Mountaineer Chapter IWLA commitment to conservation.
On May 18, the chapter will host one of their two annual youth Air Rifle/Pistol Shooting events. This is free and open to children age 8-17 years of age. You may call 304-636-0916 for information. Registration will start at 12:30 pm at the shooting range.
In June, the Tygarts Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) will sponsor a Jakes Day hosted by the Mountaineer Chapter. The "Jakes" (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) Program was formed by the National Wild Turkey Federation as a way to give youth the opportunity to experience the great outdoors. This day is filled with several fun events for kids and a few adults who lend a helping hand. Some of the events include hands-on target shooting with .22 rimfire rifles, shooting at clays with a 20-gauge shotgun, fishing, animal identification, etc. The Mountaineer Chapter donates money each year to help purchase catfish for the event and provides lunch for all in attendance.
These are just a few of the activities or programs that the Mountaineer Chapter IWLA is involved in. Other activities include: Four $1,000 college scholarships (two for high school and two for college students) who are majoring in an environmental science, Adopt-A-Highway Program, $1,000 donation to the area boy scouts, $500 each for area cub and girl scouts, and a $500 donation for the Handicapped Hunt.
All area outdoor enthusiasts should be proud of the membership of the Mountaineer Chapter Izaak Walton League of America and the Tygarts Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation for their efforts in introducing youth to outdoor activities and realistic conservation.