Do you know how easy it is to help The Watoga State Park Foundation make worthwhile improvements at the park? On the positive side, it doesn’t cost you a penny! In fact, it takes just a minute or two to change a couple of settings on your Amazon account. Voila! In essence, help us make your smiles for Watoga memorable.
Moreover, a portion of all your future purchases at the online retailer goes directly to the Foundation to help the park. Without a doubt, that definitely counts as several smiles for Watoga.
Besides it’s so easy that we’re going to let Amazon’s step-by-step directions explain how to do this on your phone or computer:
You Too Can Help Watoga While You Shop
AmazonSmile is a way customers can support their favorite charitable organization every time they shop with Amazon, at no additional cost.
Customers who shop at smile.amazon.com will find the same Amazon they know and love, with the added bonus that AmazonSmile will donate a portion of the eligible purchase price to the charity of your choice.
Signing up is easy!
How to sign up for AmazonSmile
If you shop using the Amazon app on your mobile phone:
1. Open the Amazon Shopping app 2. Navigate to the main menu (=) 3. Tap on Settings and then select “AmazonSmile” 4. Select your charity and then follow the on-screen instructions to turn ON AmazonSmile in the mobile app 5. Once AmazonSmile has been activated in your app, future eligible app purchases will generate a donation for the charity you have selected.
If you prefer to shop using a web browser:
1. Visit smile.amazon.com 2. Sign in with the same account you use for Amazon.com 3. Select your charity 4. Start shopping! Remember to checkout at smile.amazon.com to generate donations for your chosen charity. Tip: Add a bookmark to make it easier to shop at smile.amazon.com.
Please choose The Watoga State Park Foundation as your designated charity. Without a doubt, it is greatly appreciated. Please share this information or link with your friends and family. When you donate smiles to Watoga, we smile too.
The volunteers at Watoga State Park work tirelessly behind the scenes to improve your experience at the park. Consequently, individuals and businesses graciously donate time, services, talents, materials, and yes, monies too. After all, they never expect anything in return. Above all, here at the Watoga State Park Foundation, our volunteers, donors, organizations, and businesses selflessly help the park.
Built in 1887: A Cabin Well Worth Saving
Significantly, in 2018, the Watoga State Park Foundation began discussing the deteriorating condition of the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off of the Anne Bailey Trail. Without intervention, money and volunteers, this pioneer cabin, built in 1887, certainly would no longer be a part of Watoga’s rich and storied history.
Further, by the summer of 2019, critical foundation work began on the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off the Anne Bailey Trail. Of course, skilled tradespeople and our volunteers were on site.
There’s still some work to do. After all, we’ll get there. But now, because of all of you, the finish line is in sight for the Workman-Jarvis Cabin restoration project.
These Thanks Are For Our Volunteers and Donors!
The following quote aptly describes the volunteers at Watoga State Park.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew, author
With that in mind, the Watoga State Park Foundations extends its sincere appreciation to the following volunteers, businesses, and donors for your help with this project. Without you, this never would have been possible.
Ethan Burgess Vada Boback David Elliott Gail Hyer Wayne Pollard Paul Speyser Ken Springer Anne and Sollie Workman The Workman Family
Beckwith Lumber Company Glades Building Supply Interstate Lumber Company Jim C. Hamer Lumber Company Judy Fencecraft Mon Power Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Pocahontas County Historical Society
News You Can Use To Volunteer Or Donate
Moreover, we will keep park visitors, volunteers, and donors updated on completion dates, activities under development, and what this cabin may mean to you in the near future.
If you would like to volunteer your time and/or services to help Watoga, please click here. Also, donors can find more information here.
We close with a quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and author: “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”
About the Author
John Dean is a writer, editor, and journalist. He is a member of the Watoga State Park Foundation Board of Directors. You can reach John at .
In mid-August, Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races return to West Virginia’s largest state park.
Running and walking enthusiasts prepare to be “on your mark” for details about the Sixth Annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge Half Marathon and 5k events. Next, let’s “get set” with August 14, 2021 as a key date on your calendar. Now, it’s time to “go!” Tell your friends, family and fellow racing comrades. Of course, it is best to register as soon as possible. Early birds do receive discounts. Registration details are here.
Are You On Your Mark For Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon And 5k?
So, when is this? Details? Where? Course descriptions?
When and Where: The races will be Saturday, August 14, 2021, Watoga State Park, 4800 Watoga Road, Marlinton, WV 24954.
Start and Finish Lines: Both of Watoga’s Half Marathon and 5k Races start and finish at Watoga’s Beaver Creek Campground. At the old airstrip here, Gov. William C. Marland would land his plane in the mid-1950s to stay at a Watoga cabin in the woods. These days there is plenty of space (acres and acres of grassy flat land) for runners to stretch, warm up, and spread out before the races begin.
What and When: First up is the Half Marathon. It begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. The 5k starts at 8:40 a.m., ending at 2 p.m. We’re almost ready to “get set” for the races.
Course Details: The 13.1-mile half marathon course challenges runners. Experience Watoga’s, beautiful shade trees, flora and fauna at elevations ranging from 2,560 feet to 3,200 feet. Occasionally, admire the uniqueness of part of Watoga’s 40 miles of trails as you traverse along the Allegheny Trail, Busch Settlement Trail, and Honeymoon Trail to mention a few.
Up next is the 5k, which is open to runners and walkers alike.
Course Details: Along this 3.1-mile route, you will experience the beauty of tall pines, hemlock trees, and other hardwoods before traveling west into the woods. Certainly, take in the clusters of dense rhododendrons along Beaver Creek as your course joins the Allegheny Trail, making this journey a breathtaking finish as you return to the airstrip.
See the route for the 5k here. Please note that the 5k course may be slightly modified from years past. Likewise, take a look at this 2019 YouTube video of racers, course challenges, and the scenic beauty that awaits you at the park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races .
Additionally, our volunteers will be along the trails and other unexpected places cheering you on, staffing first-aid stations and providing needed hydration at Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races! Let’s go, racers!
About the Author
While growing up at Watoga for more than 16 years, John C. Dean explored parts or all of the race routes, including the “Road Not Taken.” Moreover, say hello to John along with Jack and Max, his two black Labrador Retrievers, along the wooded park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races’ panoramic vistas on August 14. He won’t mind if you ask how he liked spending a day lost in Watoga’s expansive woods. John is a journalist, writer, and legal editor. He also is a member of the Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors. John can be reached at .
Experience a rustic cabin built with pine and chestnut logs in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Legacy cabins utilized native stone for foundations, chimneys, and fireplaces. All cabins have undergone extensive renovations and updates to kitchens, bathrooms and fixtures, except for Cabins 16 and 19 (Vacation cabins). Classic cabins (Cabins 3, 8-9, 14-15, 18, 28, and 33) feature various room layouts and bedroom options. If you’ve never stayed in a cabin at Watoga, this should be on your Top 10 list.
Moreover, for camping enthusiasts who prefer a more rugged experience, you can “rough” it at Laurel Run Primitive Campground. But, the Beaver Creek and Riverside campgrounds have more modern conveniences with electric hookups, laundry centers, and bathhouses.
From the Riverside Campground, you can cast a line into the Greenbrier River or hike on the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail.
Bordering Beaver Creek Campground is Calvin Price State Forest. Enjoy a nature-filled hike in the eastern part of this 9,500-acre forest along the Allegheny Trail. Meanwhile, you may hunt with the proper license.
Locations: Cabins are in strategic locations of the park. Beaver Creek Campground is just past the park’s north entrance. Riverside Campground is near the River Cabin Area, close to Seebert. The Primitive Campground is off of Kennison Run Trail.
There are so many stars, you’ll have difficulty choosing which ones to wish upon. Catch a glimpse of one of the 13 astronomical zodiac constellations depending on the time of year. For even more amazing sights, bring your binoculars or telescope to focus on a definite Top 10 favorite. Stay tuned for potential history-making news about Watoga’s dark skies.
Just look up while you’re here.
Locations: All around you.
The Swimming Pool
After exploring the park’s many trails and scenic overlooks, you can take a break at the swimming pool, the first-ever built at a state park. It’s also the last major project completed by CCC workers in 1940. Notice the stonework as you walk up the steps to the main entrance to the pool.
Once there, relax, grab a bite to eat at the snack bar, or complete a few laps as the children enjoy the water slide. The main pool’s depth ranges from three feet to eight feet, with a separate wading area for toddlers. While the water was brisk in year’s past, it is much warmer now thanks to solar panels.
Location: Next door to Cabin No. 20, near the Activities Center.
Lightning Bugs — An Enlightening Top 10
Remember when you were younger and chased after lightning bugs as soon as darkness fell? You may still want to do so. We know your children will, especially at Watoga where different species of those mesmerizing lightning bugs thrive. We think the fascination with lightning bugs is a perennial mainstay of the Top 10 things to do at Watoga.
Recently, the Division of Natural Resources confirmed the existence of a colony of synchronous fireflies in a still-secretive location. Time will tell if Watoga will be the next Great Smoky Mountains National Park for firefly watching. However, there could be a firefly festival in the Watoga’s future. One state expert thinks that Watoga and West Virginia may become the new lightning bug capital of the U.S.
Location: Almost everywhere in the park you can see different species of fireflies. But the location of the synchronous fireflies will not be revealed until a conservation management plan is put into place at Watoga to protect their habitat.
Have A Top 10 Get Together With Friends And Family
Watoga gets you away from it all. You can feel the stress melt away. So take a walk. Enjoy your surroundings. Listen to how quiet it is. Relax.
Since Watoga’s opening in 1937, it’s been a place to get together [link to book maybe] For decades, families have held family reunions and picnics at many different places in the park.
Presently, the remodeled Activities Center, is the new gathering place for weddings, receptions, birthday parties, meetings, and more.
Locations: Pick your spot in the expanse of 10,100 acres.
Create Your Own Top 10 At Watoga
When you visit Watoga, immerse yourself in a bygone era, complete with today’s modern amenities. Create your Top 10 (or 50), make lifelong memories, and catch a lightning bug or a shooting star. Relax and sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Maybe later tell a captivating ghost story or two. The dazzling display of lightning bugs and star-filled skies are awaiting your arrival at Watoga.
Then when you are home, let us know what your Top 10 things to do at Watoga are.
About the Author
For his first 16 years, John C. Dean lived in the park. Even today, he’s fascinated by the hypnotic display of majestic lightning bugs. John’s inspiration to be a writer came from many nights looking upward at Watoga’s dark sky treasures. Recently, he was elected to the Watoga State Park Foundation’s Board of Directors, but will continue writing about park news and its history. You can reach John at .
While struggling recently to somehow narrow down an expansive list of the Top 10 Things to Do at Watoga State Park for this blog, John Denver’s smash hit “Country Roads” became stuck in my brain — for days. Other songs did also.
Watoga does “remind me of my home far away.” In fact, I grew up in the park. But until I am in the park visiting my old haunts there, those memories of country roads seem oh so distant.
Of course, that is until I get to go back to my favorite places at the state’s largest park. So, here are five of my “must-do’s” at Watoga (in no particular order). Moreover, the next five will round out the Top 10 in a future blog.
A Definite Top 10 — Watoga’s Fishin’ Hole
Watoga Lake is 11 acres with paddle, canoe and rowboats available. Fishing opportunities abound, ranging from trout and bluegill to largemouth bass and channel catfish. Stroll the circumference of the trail around the lake while casting a line to take in nature’s beauty on full display.
Location: From the southern entrance to the park, travel five miles. The lake is just a few steps from the CCC Museum, the gift shop, and the park’s office.
“What a fine day to take a stroll and wander by the fishin’ hole.
I cannot think of a better way to pass the time o’ day . . .”
Watoga provides visitors with many opportunities to explore, hike, and bike with 40 miles of trails. My fave is the Brooks Memorial Arboretum Trail, a 4.5-mile loop, rated easy to moderate. However, there are 12 other trails to explore throughout the park.
Location: The trails are well marked throughout Watoga’s 10,000-plus acres of this recreational playground. The park office and the Internet have maps of the trails system.
Take a hike to the observation tower named in honor of Revolutionary War scout Ann Bailey. You will not be disappointed by the panoramic vista of the Greenbrier River and the farmland in the Little Levels district of the Hillsboro area. Remember your camera or phone.
Location: East of the T.M. Cheek Memorial. Park at the Ann Bailey Trailhead. You can then hike or ride your mountain bike for three miles along an old roadbed, traversing along the top of Pyles Mountain and Workman Ridge. Along the way, you are sure to see or hear something you have not for a while. Please note that this trail is rated as moderate to difficult.
With expansive views of the Greenbrier Valley and Kennison Mountain, it is well worth your time to take a seat for what lies before you. During your visit to the T.M. Cheek Memorial, there is also a hillside picnic area – the perfect spot for lunch with your family or friends.
Location: Travel east from the park office past the Buck’s Run cabin area, along a winding, country road.
While there, have a seat on Vernon’s bench. He was my dad and friend. In effect, we kept going back to try to solve the world’s problems while taking in the view. The theme song to “Friends” comes to mind.
The Brooks Memorial Arboretum
Not only is this a naturalist’s dream come true, but the Brooks Memorial Arboretum is a place where you can take in the smells, sights and sounds—rhododendron in bloom, mountain streams flowing gently, and songbirds a chirpin’. Even so, it is not as quiet here as you may imagine.
Watoga – A Top 10 Song Worth Listening To Over and Over
For Watoga’s Top 10 List of Forever Hits, you too can enjoy spring’s symphony of birds, summer’s mesmerizing lightning bugs, fall’s rustling leaves, and winter’s howling winds to mention a few.
So as I cross the Greenbrier River at Seebert to return to the city, those words to “Country Roads” begin playing again. I am at peace knowing that Watoga, my forever Wild and Wonderful home, will always play the right tune for me when I return.
About the Author
John C. Dean, a writer and editor, grew up in Watoga where his favorite sights and sounds melodically filled the air throughout the year. You can reach John with your list of the Top 10 Things to Do at Watoga State Park by emailing him at .
This edition of “Watoga State Park News You Can Use” showcases the building formerly known as the Rec Hall. It is now the Activity Center. And yes, it’s still usable in many different ways — just not the same as in decades gone by.
Just a short walk from the park’s swimming pool is the former Rec Hall building. It has undergone a major transformation to a multipurpose building in the last few years. We’ll provide details on that in a moment.
But first let’s take a quick look back in time at a few details. The rec hall is nestled against a wooded backdrop where for 50-plus years you had a variety of indoor entertainment options. Those included ping pong, billiards, pinball machines, a juke box, to mention a few.
Built in the mid-1960s, the building served as a home base for the park’s naturalist as well as options for park guests on a rainy day. A floor plan from 1964 shows the recreation hall is approximately 2,100 square feet.
Just What Has Changed?
But now, the brown-sided structure plays host to a variety of events, ranging from weddings/receptions to family and class reunions, company meetings, and even school dances.
What changes were made to convert the former Rec Hall to a multiuse building? Here’s some news about improvements to that building.
Of importance to groups now renting the Activity Center is the addition of a household style kitchen with wood cabinets blending in with pine paneling.
“We added a new drop ceiling throughout,” says Jody Spencer, park superintendent. “New flooring, lighting, and a heat pump were installed too.”
“The old chimney leaked really bad due to old crumbling stones and cement joists falling apart, Spencer says. “That was the reason for the terrible floor. So, we removed the chimney, and installed gas logs in the fireplace.”
Recently, all new tables and chairs were purchased. The building features public Wi-Fi.
Spencer explains that depending on the set-up for an event inside, 75-100 people can enjoy the facilities with almost unlimited space outside.
News You Can Use — Reservation Details
The Activity Center is available for rent in the spring, summer, and fall. Prices are $175 per day for all reunions and parties (for example, birthdays, baby showers, or anniversaries) and $250/day for wedding/wedding receptions. All park rules must be followed, including limits on excessive noise. Events must end no later than 10 p.m.
Peak demand occurs in the summer when the building is rented most weekends. But it’s not too late to book your special occasion. You may contact the park office at 304-799-4087 for reservations. At this time, online bookings are not available.
While the area surrounding the Activity Center is about three acres or so, visitors and guests can still enjoy the other 10,100-plus acres in the park. With 40 miles of trails, an 11-acre stocked lake, three campgrounds, and much more, Watoga offers something for everyone.
“For weddings or reunions where guests have to travel from a distance, the park offers cabin and camping-type lodging for folks to gather nearby,” Spencer notes.
Stay tuned for the next installment of “Watoga State Park News You Can Use.”
About the Author
John C. Dean is a writer and editor. He grew up in the park in the 1960s and 1970s when the Rec Hall was first built.
When you visit one of the oldest state parks in West Virginia, you may feel as if you just stepped back in time. While you can still experience that feeling these days, you can also enjoy modern-day amenities and conveniences. So here is some Watoga State Park news you can use!
In the past few years, Watoga’s 88 campsites and 34 cabins have undergone a transformation unlike any seen in recent history. In 2018, to fund improvements at state parks and forests, West Virginia sold $55 million in lottery revenue bonds.
“The Division of Natural Resources has approximately $3.6 million budgeted to Watoga as part of our current bond funding,” says Brad Reed, West Virginia Parks Chief. “Some of this work is already completed. Most of the funding is for cabin renovations, utility upgrades to camping, and water/wastewater infrastructure projects.”
Jody Spencer, Watoga’s superintendent, explains that “major infrastructure projects include a new sewer plant at Beaver Creek along with sewer upgrades in the Pine Run Cabin Area.” Moreover, 90 percent of the park’s water lines, and systems are being replaced. “Additionally, all campsites at Beaver Creek and Riverside campgrounds will now have electrical service,” notes Spencer.
Major upgrades have been made to Watoga’s legacy and classic cabins. These include modern kitchens with high-end cabinets, cultured marble countertops, and new appliances. Likewise, in living spaces, you will enjoy the comfort of furniture crafted of solid wood. Stylish window treatments and light fixtures enhance the cabins’ new look. In addition, bathrooms feature tile floor, cultured marble surrounds, and stylish bathroom fixtures.
At eight classic cabins, large decks enhance your outdoor enjoyment of the nearby forest. When you reserve one of the park’s legacy cabins, on-demand water heaters and heating/air units supply year-round comfort. Of course, there is always the wood-burning fireplace to enjoy.
But wait! There’s more Watoga State Park news you can use.
Making News at Beaver Creek and Riverside Campgrounds
Remodeled bathhouses at Riverside and Beaver Creek campgrounds feature culture marble or tile shower surrounds, ceramic floor tiles, and new plumbing fixtures. Both camping areas have larger areas to pitch a tent or park an RV.
At Watoga Lake, repairs to the existing boat docks will appeal to anglers. New fishing boats and pedal boats are available as well.
Spencer points out that “for fishing and joy riding, a pontoon-style pedal boat has become very popular.”
“Over one hundred feet of new floating docks were constructed and added to the existing boat rental docks,” said Spencer.
“Hot Spots” and Park Benches
The Recreation Hall, close to the park’s swimming pool, underwent a makeover to serve as a multi-purpose or activity building. As a matter of fact, with a newly added kitchen, it is a popular site for weddings, reunions, and corporate meetings. You can contact the park office at 304-799-4087 to reserve the building for a meeting or special occasion.
Also, as part of several recreational activities outside the building, work on the tennis courts will start soon.
For those who have not visited recently, the park’s offices have moved to a new location. It is now in the end of the Administration Building formerly occupied by the restaurant. Moreover, this new space has Wi-Fi and a gift shop. Other Wi-Fi hot spots are at the swimming pool, recreation hall, the Beaver Creek Campground check-in building and both Riverside Campground bathhouses.
While driving through the park, you may notice some of the 37 park benches placed in scenic vantage points.
At Watoga in 2021, you can still take that step back in time. But now, you have modern-day amenities at your fingertips.
Stay tuned for more Watoga State Park news you can use about mesmerizing lightning bugs at Watoga as well as the park’s dazzling dark skies.
During the day, enjoy Watoga’s 40 miles of trails and scenic vistas throughout West Virginia’s largest state park. At night while roasting marshmallows by the campfire, take in the dark skies and lightning bugs like you have never seen them before.
About the Author
John Dean is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist. You can contact John at
Talk about a park with views and news! Happy News Year from Watoga State Park. It’s going to be a memorable one here in this 10,000-acre magical forest.
You may be wondering why I wrote Happy “News” Year to start this blog. To begin with, it’s going to be a busy news year for Watoga State Park, dominated by the Dark Sky Project and synchronous fireflies. But rest assured that there will a variety of Watoga news in 2021.
Learning the Basics of Accurate and Factual Newswriting
But first, a little background about how I became interested in journalism and how I learned to write a news story.
At Pocahontas County High School (WV) in the 1970s, I was first introduced to newswriting by journalism teacher, Grace Jane Wigal. In those days before computers, spell checks, and print-on-demand technology, Mrs. Wigal expertly taught us how to put together the high school’s first-ever newspaper, the Smoke Signal—mostly by hand.
The newspaper staff conducted interviews utilizing the 5 W’s and H (who, what, when, where, why, and how), took their own photos, and watched as stories came to life on a Royal manual typewriter. Then the tedious process of carefully cutting (yeah, with scissors) from an 8-1/2” x 11” sheet of paper began. Next, we carefully glued those articles onto a layout template. After that, Mrs. Wigal sent those pages to the printer while we waited impatiently to see the end result.
Notably, Mrs. Wigal’s leadership and guidance in the 1970s and 1980s helped her students consistently produce award-winning newspapers and yearbooks. Furthermore, many newspaper and yearbook staff members won state and national journalism awards. Moreover, multiple students under Mrs. Wigal’s direction pursued degrees and careers in journalism, including me.
Above all, Mrs. Wigal taught us how critical it was to accurately report facts.
Newswriting Dreams: My Role Models, and Their Inspiration and Impact
After PCHS, in 1989, Mrs. Wigal earned a Doctor of Law degree (J.D.) from the West Virginia University (WVU) College of Law. From 1989-1992, she practiced law with Steptoe and Johnson, a Clarksburg, West Virginia law firm. Later, Mrs. Wigal taught aspiring attorneys as a professor at the WVU College of Law, serving as Director of Academic Excellence, Director of Legal Research and Writing Program, and Director of Appellate Advocacy Program. She is a retired Teaching Professor Emerita.
Thank you, Mrs. Wigal. You will forever have a special place in my life, along with my Dad, for motivating me to pursue my newswriting dreams. Not only did she set the bar high for myself and others, but she also explained why. Years ago, she gave me permission to call her “Grace,” but she’s fondly known to me as Mrs. Wigal. However, she will always be THE TEACHER who inspired me to aim for more than what I thought I could accomplish.
And here’s a special thank you to Mr. William P. McNeel for the influence and impact you have had and still do in my writing and editing career. Mr. McNeel is an editor emeritus of the Pocahontas Times (WV). Additionally, he’s a well-respected historian and a board member of the Watoga State Park Foundation.
News You Can View at Watoga
Which brings me back to the topic at hand. For Watoga, 2021 could be one of the busiest news years ever for Watoga State Park. Here’s why:
Second, the discovery of synchronous fireflies at Watoga could mean more big “news” for you. Officials have confirmed the existence of this wondrous species in a location yet to be disclosed publicly. Additionally, the Dark Sky Project and those lightning bugs are intertwined. Likewise, I’ll explore why and how both of these impact Watoga and you in the near future.
Third, I’m also going to write about improvements at the park that will enhance your stay or visit.
Fourth, I’ll be penning a unique, two-part, Ten Best Things to Do at Watoga article.
Fifth, there will be personal anecdotes and adventures from visitors and myself while growing up at Watoga. For instance, there even may be some never-before-published news.
Happy News Year. Until next time, signing off from Watoga’s Wild, Wonderful World of dark skies and synchronous fireflies.
About the Author
John C. Dean is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist. He credits Mrs. Wigal for helping him earn a journalism degree with a focus on newswriting from WVU. John lived on-site at Watoga for 16 years. You can send your news tips to him at .
Probably the best advice that was ever given to me by an uncle who freely dispensed advice, much of it unsolicited, was to be good to your mechanic. He was spot on; if you are fortunate enough to find a competent and trustworthy person to entrust the health of your car to, it pays to show your appreciation. We appreciate Mister Good Wrench of Watoga.
Even more so because, like many professions, this one is fraught with unscrupulous operators – but not here in Pocahontas County of course.
Car Talk was a radio show about auto repairs that ran for 35 years on National Public Radio. It was hosted by brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi also called “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.” The two actually ran an auto repair shop in Boston’s Harvard Square.
People would call into the show with their car troubles and Click and Clack would diagnose the problem with a great deal of hilarity. I never missed a show in all those years for two reasons; yes, they were funny, very funny. But the show explored every possible problem you might encounter with a vehicle – so it was also very practical.
Gone are the days when you could pick up a distributor cap, a set of points and spark plugs at the NAPA store and do your own tune-up. Today’s auto mechanic must be skilled in technical diagnostics and computerized systems, in addition to being handy with a torque wrench.
Car Talk made me realize that a good mechanic has to have a lot of smarts and must think like a detective. A problem with a vehicle may be caused by a multitude of things and the right questions must be asked to pinpoint the actual cause of the problem. Computerized diagnostics also help, but you have to have the skills to operate this technology.
Meet Mister Good Wrench of Watoga
Watoga State Park got a good deal when they hired Arthur Sharp to maintain the fleet of trucks, backhoes, grader, mowers, and chainsaws necessary to keep the park running smoothly.
Arthur, a native of Pocahontas County, came to the job with skills learned as a diesel mechanic for the West Virginia National Guard.
He attended the twelve-week school at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where he graduated an “all wheels” mechanic.
In fact, Arthur wears a lot of hats. In addition to being a full-time mechanic at the park, he is active in the West Virginia National Guard, operates a farm
Where does a guy that busy find time to marry his wife Kristine and produce three great kids; Noah, Evan, and 8-month old Hope? Arthur manages it by taking care of the farm work in the evening when he can also be there with his family.
When visitors return to Watoga State Park this season they will find the Riverside Campground boasting many improvements. Backhoes and graders have been in the campground all winter pulling ditches, putting in new drainage systems, and resurfacing many of the campsites.
In other areas of the park, employees have been preemptively cutting down trees that pose a falling hazard to nearby buildings. The half-dozen mowers required to keep the grass down throughout the park, have been repaired and are awaiting use this spring.
It is Arthur who keeps all of this equipment running.
Part of the goal of the Watoga Trail Report is to make the public aware of how their park is being maintained and cared for. In doing so it is necessary to point out the many dedicated park employees, like Arthur Sharp, Mr Good Wrench of Watoga, who strive each day to make your visit a memorable one.
Other Park News
In a previous dispatch, we talked about the restoration and upgrades being made to many of the cabins. It was mentioned that the money for this project comes from the sale of government bonds and Watoga State Park was the recipient of this windfall.
Work on the cabins has been going on for about two years now, resulting in new decks, remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, and new furniture.
I have been stopping in from time to time to observe the progress, taking photographs and talking with the many skilled workers involved.
One thing became instantly clear to me; this influx of money for the cabins not only benefits the visitors to the park but, for the most part, those dollars are staying right here in Pocahontas County.
As much of the building material as possible is purchased locally. Additionally, the project is also bringing work to local contractors like Stuart Horner of JB Builders and David Smith of Marlinton-based Dream Builders. They, in turn, hire labor so the overall benefits extend well outside the park.
Pine Run Cabin Renovations
A recent visit to a couple of the cabins in the Pine Run Cabin Area, found employees refinishing the chestnut floors. It was a great opportunity to see side by side cabins in different stages of removal of the old floor finish.
Keeping in mind that these particular cabins were built over 80 years ago, to get to the original wood surface required sanding through many layers of polyurethane or varnish. How many? No one really knows but it looked to me like the workers were going through a lot of sandpaper.
Arthur showed me a cabin in which the finishing was completed. There was yellow tape across the door like you would see at a crime scene. We only peeked through the open door but the finished floor was dazzling.
Imagine all of the park visitors who strode those floors for over eight decades. Also, imagine what it cost to rent that cabin back in 1937? It turns out that it was $30 per week for a six-person cabin.
It may sound inexpensive, but keep in mind that in 1937, during the Great Depression, the average annual wage was only $1780. The cost of a gallon of gasoline was 10 cents and a loaf of bread was 9 cents.
The average annual wage in the U.S. today is approximately $48,672 and the rate for that same six-person cabin today is $953 per week.
A quick calculation reveals that in 1937 it required 1.6% of your annual wages to rent a cabin at Watoga for you and your family and friends for a week. Today renting that same cabin accounts for 1.9% of your annual wages, not that much difference. So in truth, you are paying just about the same today as you would have in 1937.
Watoga State Park has only raised the cost of renting its cabins attendant with rising salaries throughout the years. It is still a good bargain to rent a cabin and enjoy all of the other amenities and activities found within the park and around Pocahontas County.