Reasons to celebrate
a clean Cheat River
Having the Cheat river just 30 minutes away is one of the best things about living in Morgantown. It is a great way to enjoy the summer, be it for swimming, kayaking, fishing, boating or just for a picnic.
Twenty-five years ago you wouldn’t have imagined today’s Cheat. In 1994 the Cheat was heavily polluted by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), particularly after the blowout of the T&T Mine near Albright. The Cheat was practically dead, filled with sediments, heavy metals and a disgusting orange color. This contamination, killing all its aquatic life, also caused the decline of thriving white water tourism.
Fortunately, West Virginians are not the kind of people that sit with their arms crossed when faced with adversity. Such a conundrum, gave way to the establishment of Friends of the Cheat, a watershed organization, that has been working toward the remediation of the AMD and getting the Cheat back to the condition it is in today.
Cheat Fest celebrates the cleaning of the Cheat. Every year, the first weekend of May, the shores of the Cheat, just downstream from Albright, fill up with people, music and vendors. I was amazed how this event brings people from every corner of West Virginia and beyond, highlighting its diversity, and the joy that bluegrass can give to generations and people of every kind.
Yet, there is more to the Cheat Fest than just going there for the company, the music, the food, the art and other libations. Attending the Cheat Fest means also paying for ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are those benefits that the environment continuously gives to society to support our lives: Clean and abundant water, pure air and good habitat for trout.
When you go to Cheat Fest, Friends of the Cheat gets the support it needs to continue its work on keeping AMD at bay and further improving the quality of the water.
When I’m swimming at Cheat Lake in the summer and kayaking in the fall, I will try to not take it for granted, but think of all the work that is behind that amazing body of water, and that partly is thanks to my entrance fee to the Cheat Fest this year.
Reasons to celebrate