DAVIS – Nature enthusiasts and those just wanting to learn more about the beauty surrounding them gathered Saturday at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Davis to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The day was packed with activities for those age 2 to 102.
During a noon luncheon, Elizabeth Hole, of Backbone Mountain, was named as volunteer of the year.
Hole said she first fell in love with nature’s beauty while riding horses with her father, but it wasn’t until she started teaching environmental studies that she learned to appreciate the interdependence of a sustainable ecosystem. After that, she enjoyed taking students into nature to give them chances to develop their own connections to its beauty and vibrancy.
She lives with her husband Bill and their dog Tucker. She said she enjoys daily walks where she notices the changing rhythms of each season, raises a small garden and forages for ramps, morels, cranberries and apples. Hole helps others develop their own connection with nature by being a Master Naturalist, reaching out to local schools and volunteering at the Refuge where she co-leads Storytime; developed the Nature Detective program; worked to create a VC theme table and serves as chair of the Environmental Education committee of the Friends. She also enjoys reading, quilting, knitting, cooking and birding. She and her husband Bill have two daughters just began teaching careers.
Richard Zane, Acting Refuge Manager, said Hole completed the Master Naturalist Program and has been involved in many refuge activities.
“Elizabeth volunteers at the visitor’s center, develops programs such as story time and the touch table for young children and gets refuge materials into the Tucker County schools,” Zane said. “She now serves capably as the chairperson of the education committee and the secretary of the Friends executive committee.”
Other activities during the 20th celebration include a celebration of birds birdwalk, a biology habitat tour, a walk to learn about a project to improve native fish populations of Idlemans Run, a native plant tour, outdoor family activities and a Canaan Valley history walk.
“We are glad to see so many people getting involved with our celebration today,” Zane said. “We have lots of hunters and hikers, included in our more than 30,000 visitors each year. We have 30 miles of trails and a map of those is available at the Refuge.”
Parsons resident Mimi Kibler said she enjoyed the Saturday birdwalk.
“We went to the boardwalk on Freeland Road, taking our time,” Kibler said. “We saw goldfinches, a bluebird, cedarwaxwings, a purple finch and a green heron.”
Kibler said she has enjoyed birding for the past five years.
“I had a red start – a warbler – in my yard a year ago,” Kibler said. “That was unexpected and nice. I really want to see a red-headed woodpecker. They said it is on hole three of Canaan Valley Golf Course.”
Candy Olson, Refuge volunteer, walked visitors through the native plant gardens at the facility.
“We are in the process of renovating the gardens so they are more educational and more natural,” Olson said. “We are taking this one bed at a time. This year’s bed is a pollenator bed, which contains an insect hotel – a structure you make with native items like pinecones and bark. The idea is to have nooks and crannies of various sizes and depths. It is meant to attract native bees – some are solitary nesters that are good polinators. It also attract other insects that are good for the garden like ladybugs, beetles and wasps.”
Olson said insects are struggling a bit this year.
“The biggest thing for the insects is not really one thing,” Olson said. “They are suffering a loss of habitat and suffer from all of the insecticides being used. The honey bee population has gone way down. This year, even our butterfly population has gone way down. We’re down to about 20 percent of what we normally have and that’s not just here, it’s everywhere. We had a really hard winter.”
Refuge volunteer, Sigrid Rosenberger, said the center is open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It offers visitors activities, information, maps and also has a bookstore with books about birds, trees, flowers and a host of other subjects.
Rosenberger, who lives in Florida, said she came by accident 15 years ago.
“We rent a house for three months each summer,” Rosenberger said. “We are both from Germany and we were here hiking. We decided it was like home.”
Rosenberger said she and her husband enjoy the many hiking activities available in Tucker County.
“We increased our time here from one month a year to three months a year,” Rosenberger said. “We love it. I enjoy working at the Refuge. I meet people from all over the world.”
Rosenberger said her favorite place to hike is Dolly Sods and she recommends folks visit Dolly Sods if they have never had the opportunity to visit.
“We meet people sometimes that are lost,” Rosenberger said. “We carry maps of the trails to share with those who need help finding their way.”
She said she has encountered some unexpected surprises on her hikes.
“We have walked into rattlesnakes,” Rosenberger said. “We have seen bears at Dolly Sods, but not often. You have to be lucky to run into bears. Those impressed me the most.”
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s 500th was established on August 11, 1994, with the purchase of 86 acres. The refuge currently is 16,550 acres. The refuge works to preserve the unique wetlands and uplands of this high elevation, moist valley.
The valley’s high elevation and position in the Allegheny Mountains combine to create a cool, moist climate more typical in Maine and Canada. Visitors enjoy our snowy winters, cool summers and the expansive views looking over grasslands and wetlands. This climate supports species, like balsam fir, cottongrass, woodcock and fisher usually found far north of here. Many plants and animals are near their southern limits amidst the valley’s rugged beauty. Rare species abound in the high elevation wetlands. The refuge is home to 580 species of plants and 288 different animals; quite a diversity of life.
“We are proud to be part of this community and look forward to another 20 years,” Zane said.
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6263 Appalachian Highway in Davis. Additional information is available by calling the Refuge at 304-866-3858.