April 4, 2022 by William Dean, The Dominion Post
Friends of the Cheat is trying to raise $10,000 to maintain access to the Cheat River and Big Sandy River.
This year, the focus is on the Jenkinsburg area. The spot is famous for its high bridge and being home to Blue Hole, a popular swimming area, according to the West Virginia Land Trust, which purchased 13.5 acres in the area in 2020.
It’s also the takeout site for the Cheat Canyon and Big Sandy Creek section, said Owen Mulkeen, associate director for FOC. Cheat Canyon is a little over 10 miles long and Big Sandy is 5-6 miles.
“And it’s an iconic Class 5 creek,” Mulkeen said. “Very popular; people travel all around to do that section and that Cheat Canyon section.”
It’s very important to tourism. People will drop their vehicles off at the Jenkinsburg area, go back to the put-in spot and float down the river, Mulkeen said. Without the Jenkinsburg access, the next takeout point would be Cheat Lake, which he said would not be a fun paddle.
That importance is why FOC got involved with maintaining the road, he said. Cheat Canyon was the first commercially run river in West Virginia.
“Access is part of our mission, you know, our Friends of the Cheat mission is to kind of promote and preserve access to wild places, to rivers, for recreation purposes and for preserving them for conservation,” Mulkeen said.
However, the situation is unusual. Bull Run Road is state-owned. However, like many roads in Preston County it has been “quote unquote abandoned by the DOH, meaning that they don’t actively maintain those roads,” Mulkeen said.
“This is a nonprofit, taking members’ hard-earned dollars, you know, many people donate $100, $300, or whatever money, to us to do work on a public road,” Mulkeen said. “And that’s unique. That’s really not a recipe for long-term sustainability. We need the gov … we need the state to step up, we need local support to really improve that road in that area.”
A record-number of people are using the area and there are a number of accidents that happen down there that require emergency vehicles, so it’s also a priority from a safety standpoint, Mulkeen said.
Specifically FOC will be working on the river’s right side, or the Bruceton Mills side of the road.
“The side from Bruceton Mills down to Jenkinsburg. Not the Masontown side down. That’s kind of a clear distinction is that we don’t do work on the entire road. We just do from the Bruceton Mills side,” Mulkeen said.
To donate or for more information visit cheat.org/recreation/river-access/call-for-action-bull-run-road-repairs-2022/.