An effort to have West Virginia’s industrial-arts students do work for the state’s parks has borne its first fruit.
At Cedar Creek State Park in Gilmer County, nine new metal-roofed shelters hug the banks of the park’s popular fishing ponds. Students from the Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center built the open-sided shelters, which are designed to protect fishermen from inclement weather. Park personnel installed them.
The work took place after state Department of Education and the Division of Natural Resources officials became partners in an initiative to help students get hands-on work experience by having them do projects for the state’s 35 state parks, seven state forests, five wildlife management areas and two state-managed trails.
Paul Minigh, Cedar Creek’s superintendent, said the initiative fit naturally with the park’s desire to build some fishing shelters.
“We had already purchased the materials, but we hadn’t had time to do anything with them,” Minigh said. “Then the initiative with the career centers came around. We dropped the materials off, and the students built the shelters. They were willing to come and install them, too, but we wanted to get them in place in time for the trout-stocking season to begin.”
The installation took place during the students’ holiday break. Minigh said park personnel used a power auger to dig the holes for the support timbers and had the structures in place by Jan. 3, when the year’s first stocking took place.
The shelters feature 5-by-6-foot platforms flanked by heavy vertical beams that support the roofs and anchor the platforms to the soil. Minigh said he plans to hang tarpaulins around three sides of the structures to break the wind, with the idea of installing more permanent walls later on.
“We’ve purchased eye hooks so we can attach the tarps,” he said. “But as money permits, we might put siding around them. The idea is to make a windbreak so that fishermen could maybe bring little Coleman heaters to break the chill during the wintertime.”
Winter is when the park’s ponds get fished most heavily. The DNR stocks the ponds with trout twice a year — once in early January and once in early March. Anglers know that any trout they don’t catch will die when the ponds’ waters become too warm, so they do their best to fish them out as quickly as possible.
Minigh said funding for the shelter project came from the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section, the branch of the agency responsible for trout stockings.
“Brad Reed, [the park system’s] assistant chief, worked up a deal with Wildlife that they would reimburse us for time we spent mowing the pond banks and picking up trash left behind by fishermen,” Minigh said. “The reimbursement amounted to about $6,000. Since the money was fishing-related, we decided to use it to try to make things a little more comfortable for our wintertime fishermen. We figured a few sheds, spread around the three ponds, might do that.”
He views the shed-building project as just the beginning of what he hopes will be a long and productive partnership.
“The career center has all kinds of programs we could find work for,” he said. “They do carpentry, welding, metal fabrication, automotive repairs and painting. We’re in the process of repairing one of our bulldozers. The student machined the head of the motor block and honed the valves for us, and they think they might be able to weld the brake bands for us as well.
“We found out that the carpentry students have built a 12-foot by 24-foot ‘tiny house.’ That really perked our ears up. We’re looking at the possibility of having them build us a ‘tiny cabin.’ That’s very attractive to us. We’d have to put in the foundation and the utilities, but they indicated the cabin could be built for $22,000 to $24,000. That’s very attractive. I think there’s quite a number of projects they’ll be able to help us with.”