Group’s Focus Goes with the Creek’s Flow

Morgantown Dominion Post
26 July 2013
By Joan Starkey McKay

I remember when my maternal grandmother worked at the Sterling Faucet factory in the 1960s.

Occasionally, we would cross and follow Deckers Creek in Sabraton to take her to work. I was a child, but that creek made an impression. The rocks were coated with orange. Many parts appeared to be community trash dumps. I would never have played in or imagined fishing or swimming in that creek.

Time passed, and in 2001, I opened a business in Sabraton. It came to my attention that a group called Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) committed its labor and resources to cleaning up the creek. By that time, I was aware that a lot of people pitched in to cart the trash out of the creek, because it looked much better than I remembered. Since I had a vivid memory of how the creek used to look in contrast to how the creek was beginning to look, I decided to attend an FODC meeting.

As it turned out, the meeting’s topic was the economic benefits that accrue to the surrounding area and community when a waterway is restored. The information provided at that meeting, along with the clear evidence that this group was effective, convinced me to donate my labor and charitable contributions to their efforts and to the stream which my business practically abutted.

Not long after that first meeting, I was asked to submit my interest in joining the board. Eventually, I became a board member and served until my term limit ended this spring.

I have served through many changes. The group’s focus has evolved and grown as each successive threat to a healthy stream has surfaced, and as educational opportunities have proven crucial.

More than a decade ago, the primary effort was the physical cleanup of tires, trash and appliances. The worst of that part of the cleanup of Deckers Creek is over, but physical cleanup is ongoing. Although some of the illegal dumping has been curtailed, there continues to be the litter generated by daily carelessness. FODC continues to sponsor volunteer cleanup days, which is a great entry-level effort for anyone to participate in. It is one of the efforts that drew me to volunteer my time to the group. I have participated in these and the clear result from a half-day’s efforts is very gratifying.

Over time, more resources were focused on the acid mine drainage. Other sources of contamination have become apparent and are addressed according to FODC’s mission: Improve the natural qualities of, increase the public concern for, and promote the enjoyment of the Deckers Creek Watershed.

Following the guidance of that mission statement was my focus as an FODC board member. The monthly meetings, most of which are public, and many of which are informative events, were a pleasure to attend. As a board member, I toured and spoke to private land owners who dealt with areas of seeping mine drainage from closed mines. The remediation of these seeping sources of acid, which can kill the life of the creek, have resulted in a series of multi-funded treatment projects administered by FODC.

I have been impressed at the level of effort volunteers, employees, VISTA and Youth Advisory Board members have contributed toward the restoration of this economically vital, sensory pleasing Deckers Creek. Someday soon, one may see that playing, swimming and fishing in this stream is possible. I have been a small part of that improvement.

FRIENDS OF DECKERS CREEK is a nonprofit watershed group. Its column runs monthly. To contact the group, call 304-292-3970 or visit