NEW RICHMOND – Despite the slippery mud left by the early morning rain, 15 James Madison University staff members were hard at work in the Guyandotte River Park, near Wyoming County East High School, Wednesday morning.
The group of university professionals was moving a wooden bridge back into place, and above the flood plain, after recent flooding moved it about 150 yards downriver, explained Dewey Houck, Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL) president.
RAIL created the roadside park several years ago. Part of the Coal Heritage Trail, the park is also a river access point for the 160-mile Guyandotte River Water Trail.
With a kayak/canoe launch site in the park, RAIL has established the first four of 20 access points along the Guyandotte River, Houck said.
Additionally, the university group was rebuilding walking trails around the park and clearing out the trash during their three-day stay.
The group also planned to place a sign marking the spot where the “Fletcher Treasure” was discovered by the Boy Scouts in 2017.
Wrapped in a deteriorating cloth, the large weathered box contained what appeared to be pearls, along with colorful beads and other jewelry items, tarnishing metals, campaign buttons from the early 1900s, along with old coins and paper money.
A faded letter instructed the “finders to keep” the treasure and Houck gave it to the Scouts, who came from Huntington and were part of the summer’s Boy Scout Jamboree community service projects.
“The letter said it belonged to the finders,” Houck said at the time. “They found it; they should take it with them as far as I’m concerned.”
As to who buried the treasure, or when it was placed in the ground, or from where the loot could have come may always be in question, Houck maintained.
Using their spring break from the university, the 15-member team is in the final phase of an intensive, year-long leadership program, known as IMPACT 3, explained Khalil Garriott, the university’s digital content director.
“We’re trying to do our part to help the community,” Garriott said.
However, the team also used the trip to build their working partnerships, improve communication, get to know each other better, while learning to work together and develop problem solving skills, he noted.
Another leadership unit from the school spent their spring break volunteering with RAIL last year, Garriott said.
“We’ve been building on what they did last year.”