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Get Active program to expand in New River Gorge

RICK STEELHAMMER | Gazette-Mail Paddle boarders on the New River at Camp Brookside
RICK STEELHAMMER | Gazette-Mail This year, the Get Active program at New River Gorge is expanding on last year’s project with a variety of classes.
RICK STEELHAMMER | Gazette-Mail Volunteers are needed at Camp Brookside for this year’s activities.

By Rick Steelhammer

Staff writer

A program launched last year that used the New River Gorge National River’s recently restored Camp Brookside as a campus for free public instruction in activities ranging from yoga and tai chi to stand-up paddle boarding and fly fishing has received a second year of funding, and will operate on a year-round basis in 2017.

Get Active in the Park, operated jointly by the National Park Service and Active Southern West Virginia, was recently awarded a $23,544 grant from the National Park Foundation’s Active Trails program to continue and expand upon the last year’s pilot project.

In addition to operating on a year-round basis this year, “we will be offering activities within the entire footprint of the park, including the Bluestone National Scenic River and the Gauley River National

Recreation Area,” said Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia.

Last year, Get Active in the Park offered 70 free, beginner-level activities and instructional sessions at Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center, a former Union Carbide summer camp

for employees’ children, located on a 35-acre island in the New River near Sandstone in Summers County.

The classes and activities, which began in June and ended in October, included birding hikes, full-moon hikes, astronomy hikes, archery, trail running, healthy eating cooking classes, fishing on standup paddle boards, basic mountain biking, yoga, canning and tai chi.

“This year, we will be offering winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and we will add things like rock climbing and have a more focused mountain biking program,” Seiler said. Orienteering and meditation are among other new activities scheduled for 2017.

Money from the grant will be used to buy or rent equipment for free use by program participants and to pay for training and certification of volunteer instructors, more of whom are needed to make this year’s Get Active in the Park program a success.

“We need volunteers for activities as simple as leading a hike to people who are certified in things like Leave No Trace,” a skills and ethics program for backcountry campers and hikers, Seiler said.

Teaching experience is not necessary, since volunteers will be provided with training and certification.

Get Active in the Park classes and activities are free and open to the public, although registration is required for activities in which special equipment is needed, such as stand-up paddle boards or mountain bikes.

Seiler urged those interested in teaching Get Active in the Park classes to contact Active Southern West Virginia at 304-254-8488 to learn more.

A schedule of activities for this year’s program will be posted on

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.


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