HOW THE FORKS OF COAL NATURAL AREA FOUNDATION STARTED
Jack Workman and his wife Claudia spent a lifetime building their business and acquiring about 300 beautiful acres on the Kanawha County – Lincoln County line between the forks of the Coal River. The Little Coal and Big Coal Rivers meet at the lower end of the land they called “the Forks of Coal.” They wanted to see this special undeveloped acreage remain unspoiled and in its natural state. Their shared goal was to create a place for wildlife education, conservation and appreciation of nature.
After Claudia passed on in 2014, Jack decided to honor her memory by donating the 102 acres on the west side of Corridor G (U.S. Rt. 119) for permanent protection as a conservation area and development of a wildlife education facility to be named after her – the Claudia L. Workman Wildlife Education Center. The land was given to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources “DNR”) in 2015, and the Forks of Coal State Natural Area Foundation was organized to assist and support the DNR in its mission.
Seven hiking trails now traverse the property across the ridges and along the river and there will be more trail development. Plans are already under way for signage, improvements to make the points of interest more accessible and exhibits explaining the history and culture of the Coal River watershed. Educational programs and events will be ongoing throughout the year once the Natural Area and Wildlife Education Center are fully operational.
The Foundation held its first major education and outreach event on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the Forks of Coal State Natural Area. More than 300 people attended the event which included nature walks, games for children, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s mobile aquarium, a live raptor presentation, a History Alive historical reenactment of Gabriel Arthur, the first known European to enter the Coal River valley, wildlife and forestry exhibits, food and much more.