The WVDNR held a dedication ceremony on June 2 to officially open the Forks of Coal State Natural Area. This 102-acre natural area is situated nestled between the confluence of the Big and Little Coal Rivers where they meet to form the Coal River.
Located directly adjacent to route 119 just minutes south of the capitol city of Charleston and nearly every major interstate that passes through the state, the area is sure to be a destination stopping point for travelers as well as residents all over the area.
The newly dedicated area is the result of a very generous gift from long time local business man Jack Workman. Workman and his late wife, Claudia, have always been passionate about nature and the importance of environmental education and stewardship.
Since the Workman’s acquisition of the property more than 30 years ago it had always been the hope to provide an educational opportunity for the young and old alike with the property. “Our dream has always been to keep the property in its natural state and for it to serve as a learning tool for children to teach them stewardship of the land and how to use the natural resources” Mr. Workman proudly explains.
The property is rich in natural and historic features. These features will play a key role in the development of the property into what is hoped to be a crown jewel in the WVDNR Wildlife and Parks system.
The area already features over three miles of hiking trails and is reported to be prime bird watching habitat. There are several informational kiosks located throughout the property and many more are planned.
Once completed, the Claudia L. Workman Wildlife Education Center will feature numerous wildlife and historical exhibits showcasing the area’s rich history and biological diversity. It is, also, hoped that the center will become the “gateway” to West Virginia’s elk zone.
What makes this area so unique is that it is relatively free of the invasive species of plants that are beginning to plague the forests around the state. Invasive species are plants or animals that are not native to a certain area or geographic region but have been brought in either on purpose or accidentally, and are forcing out the native species naturally found there.
Preserving native species has been a huge concern for years all over the country and the Forks of Coal area will hopefully help educate its visitors on how important it is for everyone to help control and stop the spread of these invading species.
The State Natural Area will also be the new home of the WVDNR District 5 offices which will bring together wildlife and DNR law enforcement offices to a more central location within the district, not only helping the agency reduce costs, but, also, operate more efficiently.
The Forks of Coal State Natural Area is definitely an exciting addition for the WVDNR and the value of the property itself and its benefits are near limitless. The Workman family is to be commended for their generosity and the sportsmen and women of the state owe them a huge thank you, not to mention the countless visitors and youth who will undoubtedly visit the area in the future.
So, let me take this opportunity, on behalf of all those who will have the pleasure to visit the Forks of Coal property, to say THANK YOU! Mr. Workman the dream that you shared with your loving wife Claudia will be a blessing to the State and all of the creatures and plants that call it home for many years to come.