In honor of Earth Day, the Mon Valley Green Space Coalition (MVGSC) and the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) will host a “Touch the Earth Festival” from 1 to 4 p.m. on April 17 at the pavilion in Marilla Park. The event is free and open to the public.
Other organizations, including Friends of Deckers Creek, the Mon River Trails Conservancy, Recycle Right Morgantown, the Mon chapter of the Sierra Club, and members of Morgantown’s Green Team, will also participate in the event.
The Festival will include educational activities by members of participating organizations, including guided tours of Marilla Park’s new trail, a tree-planting party, and a scavenger hunt in which participants will learn to identify trees and plants. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn everything from how to build a sustainable hiking-and-biking trail to how to spot and avoid poison ivy. Trees on the trail route will have signage with information about their ecological and financial benefits, particularly as they relate to easing the adverse effects of climate change.
Guided tours of the new trail will be given at 1:30 and 3:30 P.M., and the tree-planting will occur at 2:30 P.M. Throughout the festival, information on recycling, the rail-trails, the WVLT’s Toms Run Preserve, and the proposed Morgantown southern greenbelt will be available.
“From an ecological perspective, it’s crucial to preserve and protect green spaces,” said JoNell Strough, a WVU professor of psychology and the chair of the MVGSC. “Their positive impact on air and water quality can’t be overstated. Green spaces are also essential to the overall physical and mental health of a community. They provide recreational opportunities as well as peaceful, restorative retreats from our hectic day-to-day lives.”
One of the aims of the Touch the Earth Festival is to highlight the possibility of a greenbelt around the city, which would enable residents to move around town without resorting to motorized transportation. Representatives from the MVGSC and the WVLT have been in active talks with the city to establish more connector trails, such as the new one in Marilla Park, to link neighborhoods to city parks and the rail trail.
“Morgantown is one of three West Virginia cities that have been chosen for a remote worker program that will highlight outdoor activities,” said Rick Landenberger, a WVU geography professor, MVGSC board member, and the science and land management specialist for the WVLT. “With a greenbelt, our community would be even more attractive to people and businesses that want to make Morgantown their home.”
Sponsors of the Touch the Earth Festival recommend that guests who wish to participate in tree- planting activities wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves (so as to avoid contact with poison ivy) and bring shovels, if they have them. (Some shovels and other tools will be available for public use.) In keeping with the state’s Covid guidelines, festival organizers and participants will wear masks and maintain appropriate social distances.
The festival will occur rain or shine.
For more information on the festival and to learn more about the WVLT, visit www.wvlandtrust.org. More information about MVGSC can be found at www.monvalleygreenspace.org. You can also find both organizations on Facebook at @wvlandtrust and @greenspacecoalition.