The Community Block Party will include activities like a
cook-out, music, critters and things for kids to do but it will also offer a
look at the past.
Don Teter with the state’s History Alive program will
portray Martinsburg native David Hunter Strother, also known as Port Crayon.
Strother was a writer and illustrator who explored Canaan
in the mid 1800’s.
“Port Crayon really was a seminal individual for this area.
In the 1850’s he came through and he was an explorer and really started writing
about the history of Canaan and Blackwater area in Tucker
County,” Johnathan Shafler, Refuge
manager, said. “He’s a real character.”
Shafler said Strother’s books describe what he saw and the
hardships he faces when he came to Canaan, which Shafler
points out “was so remote that it was one of the last places on the eastern
seaboard that was inhabited.”
Shafler said the difference between what Canaan
looked like then and what it looks like now is startling.
“Canaan was this massive spruce
forest that was almost impenetrable,” Shafler said. “No one came in here but
the natives to trade.”
Schafler said dramatic changes came about Strother’s
visit. The logging industry stripped the
trees and in more recent years Canaan has become a
popular tourist destination.
“Now we’ve got a healthy mix of forest, uplands, some
development,” he said.
On Saturday visitors will get the opportunity to take a
closer look at that healthy mix of land with ranger guided walks. One will
highlight the Refuge’s flora, fauna, insects,
birds and wetlands.
“We’re right in the middle of our spring season. Vernal
pools are out, the frogs are hatching, the salamanders are scurrying about,”
Schafler said. “So you’ll get a chance to learn about nature and wildlife and
wild places on that particular tour.”
Schafler said the Refuge wetland system is especially
significant. It consists of about nine thousand acres, making it the largest
wetland complex in the state and the fifth largest in the country.
“Boggs, wetlands, marshes and swamps have traditionally been
those places that nobody wanted to go that were a sink for wildlife,” he said.
“It’s how we clean our water and how we maintain our wildlife relationships are
through these wetlands.”
The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was formed in 1995.
Schaffler has been the manager for five years and in that time he’s seen the
number of visitors increase.
“We’ve got 41miles of trails, we’ve got a number of ski
resorts that are within the boundaries of the Refuge, folks come her to see
nature by bike, they come to hike, they come to bird watch, see the wildlife
and we have a large hunting program so we’re really a multiple use organization
that allows for appropriate uses on a national wildlife refuge,” Schafler said.
The Community Block Party at Canaan Valley National Wildlife
Refuge takes place Saturday from 8 a.m.
to 4 p.m.