By Shea Anderson
When they jump into the rapids of the New River Gorge, Fayette County residents are also hopping on the green wave.
The green trend here encompasses a lot, and as the Fayette County’s Green Advisory Team will tell you, it’s all about sustainability. “We work to promote economic, environmental and social health,” President Gabriel Peña said. “We look at people and businesses also. Do businesses support the local economy? We all want to live in healthy communities that are sustainably developed, where we can live and grow. Someone has to have the foresight.”
Adventures on the Gorge is on board with sustainability: our new bar at Chetty’s Pub is made from reclaimed chestnut lumber. The bar was crafted by John Petretich (pictured at left) of Virgin Timber Lumber Company, which deconstructs buildings in need of removal and uses the lumber to create new boards and furniture.
Virgin Timber is located in the Bellann Building, another major sustainability project in Fayette County. The building underwent a 3-step renovation, including reclaimed wood floors, that began in 2007 and finished in early 2012. Some of the highlights of the project are carpets made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and ceiling tiles made of 85% recycled material. Local products were used when possible, and local craftsmen completed a lot of the construction on the second floor of the building.
“It’s important because we need to do a better job of using the resources we have,” said Gene Kistler of Lights ON! West Virginia, the company that renovated the Bellann Building. “I think it brought a new energy to Main Street. It improves it on a social and developmental level. We learned a lot about what’s possible with these types of projects.”
While the planned phases are complete, Kistler said he’d like to see the project continue eventually—solar energy capabilities and more greenery in the parking lot are two of many interesting options.
The Green Advisory Team is also looking into solar energy, consulting with New Vision Renewable Energy to facilitate projects in Fayette County. Peña said the team is also trying to collaborate with Energy Efficient WV, a company that helps reduce energy bills.
“We’re a fairly new organization,” Peña said. “We’re in our third year. We’re still getting our feet under us and identifying projects to get behind.”
One of those projects is a bike path from Fayetteville to Oak Hill, which stops at Wal-Mart and Kroger. Glass recycling is another big issue the team is trying to tackle. Peña said a pulverizer could turn glass bottle waste into road pavement and make rain gardens that would help water get back to the rivers.
“A great number of people came here for rafting and climbing, and they fell in love with this place and decided they want this to be their home,” Peña said. “And in the last few decades, the people who have stuck around have tried to make something here and build a sustainable community, build something special.”
By way of an example, when two mothers in the community wanted to educate people about the green initiative, they began an Earth Day festival that the Green Advisory Team now manages. “The people of Appalachia are so resourceful,” Peña said. “They understand that we can do a lot with a little around here.”
The April 22 Earth Day festivities are on the Fayetteville courthouse lawn, and include vendors, games, a rain garden demonstration and swaps for books, clothes, bikes and gear. Part of the proceeds from meals sold at Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant on March 6 and Diogi’s Mexican Grill on March 14 will go toward the Earth Day celebration.