CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After planting thousands of trees on slopes that had been clearcut and bulldozed to accommodate a runway extension project at Yeager Airport, students from Glenville State College returned to the Charleston airport on Tuesday to celebrate Earth Day by applying mulch and planting flowers.
The tree-planting partnership between Glenville State and Yeager began in 2008, when students and faculty from the Gilmer County college’s land resources department and airport officials worked out a reforestation plan for slopes below the runway grade that had been denuded to make way for earthmoving associated with the lengthening of airport’s main runway.
By the end of 2011, crews of volunteers from Glenville State had planted more than 10,000 black locust, red oak, redbud, spruce and Chinese chestnut trees at their adopted airport. The students compared survival rates for tree seedlings protected by deer-repelling wire-mesh cones with those planted with no protection, and experimented with planting two species by hydro-spraying their seeds on the slopes.
“It turned out that locust was the species that did the best here, and that trees that were planted before grass was hydroseeded onto the slopes did better than those that were planted after grass was hydroseeded,” said Bob Henry Baber, Glenville State’s public relations specialist.
Volunteers from all walks of student life took part in Glenville State’s “Adopt an Airport” program.
“At times, we had up to 80 people working on the mountain,” Baber said. “In addition to the land resources students, we had students from the Student Government Association, the baseball team and a variety of clubs and organizations.”
On Tuesday, the Glenville State Earth Day crew was made up of students participating in the college’s Hidden Promise Consortium, a program developed by GSC President Peter Barr to increase the college enrollment and graduation rate in 40 West Virginia counties, as well as in portions of Ohio and Connecticut. The program works with students from seventh grade through high school to make them aware of college opportunities through campus visits, field trips, mentorships and scholarships.
“I spent a lot of my childhood digging in a garden, so I feel right at home doing this,” said Hannah Cunningham, a freshman from the West Union area of Doddridge County and one of 20 Hidden Promise students taking part in Earth Day activities at Yeager.
The Hidden Promise program “opened my eyes to so many opportunities,” said Marlon Henry, a Randolph County native, former GSC student government president, and now an assistant to Barr, who in 2011 became the second Hidden Promise student to graduate from Glenville. “I saw that there was a way that I could go to college and be successful. I ended up with two degrees in 4½ years, and learned that there were bigger opportunities to be found outside of Montrose.”
As a student in the land resources department, Henry took part in most of the tree-planting activity at Yeager.
Because the Charleston airport is a gateway to West Virginia for many visitors, “working here is a way to show my pride in West Virginia, and hopefully, make a small difference worldwide.”
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5169.