WVU students brainstorm ideas for 4-H camp

BUCKHANNON — Could a remediated tar pit at the Upshur County Youth Camp in Selbyville one day serve as an archery range?

Or would it be a better home to low growing vegetation whose roots don’t extend very deep into the soil?

Those were some of the questions bandied about Wednesday, Nov. 15 as six groups of 24 third-year landscape architecture majors at WVU presented their master plans for remediation of the tar pit and a complete overhaul of the 4-H youth camp at the Event Center at Brushy Fork. County officials – including commissioners Troy “Buddy” Brady and Sam Nolte, as well as county administrator Carrie Wallace, assistant administrator Tabatha Perry and other local stakeholders – meandered from table to table, as the students highlighted features of their master makeover plans for the Upshur County Youth Camp. 

Perry explained the county will begin the process of remediating the tar pit in 2018, thanks to the commission having been awarded a three-year, $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant with a 20 percent in-kind match from the county.

“We’re mostly looking at their ideas for remediating the tar pit,” Perry said. “Later on, if there was other grant funding available, the commissions would have the designs available to look at, but the focus now is on remediation.”

The project will need to be bid out in 2018, and then the county is likely to work with one or two students on tar pit remediation ideas.

“The main objective of this event is community engagement,” Perry said.

The tar pit remediation project began back in 2012, when then-county administrator Willie Parker applied for and the county was awarded a $5,000 Focus W.Va. Brownfields assessment grant to determine the scope of the project, Perry said.

Peter Butler, associate professor of landscape architecture and Extension Specialist at WVU, said he transformed the junior-level requirement into a service learning project.

“It’s really about getting out and providing design services for nonprofits and communities and government,” Butler said at the Nov. 15 event, “and the scope of the project wasn’t complex enough to just cap the tar pit, so we had them looking at some issues with lack of spaces and recreational resources. So we made the scope of the project the whole property.

“It’s such an authentic learning experience; it’s very real work,” Butler added. “In landscape architecture, we work with places and people and to be able to provide that experience in the classroom is key. One of the most important things I evaluate in these plans is how well students are listening to and understanding the concerns with and for the stakeholder.”

Junior Sean Gaffney said he’s been doing landscaping work since age 16.

One of the ideas Gaffney had was to cap the tar pit once, add an additional cap and then transform the space into an archery range.

“I also added a green roof to the assembly hall, which would help keep heat in during the winter months, as well as an indoor shooting range to help attract more of the public,” Gaffney said.

Junior Tess Fallova said she was keenly interested in crafting a master plan as soon as she learned about the project.

“I’m from West Virginia, and I’m really big on nature and 4-H, and that was something that was a really big part of my childhood,” said Fallova, who lived on nine acres of farmland growing up. “That stuff is very near and dear to my heart, especially with this youth camp because kids these days — they’re not used to this kind of stuff, the whole nature, team-building types of activities, and this camp upholds that.

“That’s a really good thing to learn when you’re young because they told us there’s no cellphone service (at the youth camp in Selbyville) here,” Fallova continued. “You sit down and you have a conversation with someone – and that’s something we don’t do, so I think this is a really great opportunity for the youth of today.”

In her master plan, Fallova incorporated several elements to address stormwater management issues, as well as several raised platforms for viewing stars.

“It is a really great place for viewing stars, and one of the only places they say you can see the North star, and I thought that was a really significant place,” she said. “For the tar pit, I was thinking, after EPA comes in and cleans it up, just having low-growing plants that don’t have very deep roots because you don’t want to mess that cap that they put on top of it.”

Students utilized a variety of computer programs to assemble their plans, including GIS systems, AutoCAD, SketchUp and Photoshop.

Commissioner Sam Nolte said having a variety of master plans for the county’s use is essential, should it ever want to apply for grants to make improvements to the camp.

“The bonus is, we have a master plan for the entire camp, and down the road, it’s something we can consider,” Nolte said. “How you get your grants is, you have to have an idea of what you’re going to do."

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