Wheeling native Holly Purpura enjoys kayaking. And even though the flatwater enthusiast has not worked her way up to riding the rapids of Deckers Creek, she devotes a great deal of her time to the stream as the executive director of the Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) for the past two years. Purpura oversees programs the 22-year-old organization implements to keep acid mine drainage and garbage out of the waterway, which forms in the Arthurdale area of Preston County and flows for 64 miles to empty into the Monongahela River at Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park. “We work with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean the watershed,” she says. The group’s handiwork can be seen in some unexpected places: Check out the underpass mural near the riverfront park and the creekside garden and park behind the Sabraton Kroger.
On the creation of the FODC in 1995
It was formed by a group of outdoor enthusiasts who saw the asset Deckers Creek was, but how abused it was. There was illegal dumping and acid mine drainage and other pollutants—such as sewage systems being illegally dumped into the creek.
On the last Deckers Creek cleanup
We cleaned up an illegal dump a year ago in April. We pulled out 10,500 pounds of trash and 150 tires. We worked with the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) and the Mon County Solid Waste Authority to remove couches, TVs, tires. We had to bring out a boom truck—MUB did—with a pulley system, to bring everything up from a ravine.
On stocking Deckers Creek with trout
We just reintroduced brook trout to the creek, which is a native trout. We’re stocking brown trout for the seventh season. We work with the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, another non-profit organization, that works to promote fishing, restore water quality, and improve fish habitats.
On where FODC gets the trout to stock the stream
The brook trout were provided by Trout Unlimited and grown in a classroom setup from eggs by kids in the community, in a 55-gallon tank that Trout Unlimited provides. Teachers and students raise the eggs during the school year and we stock in May. The fish are 3 inches long. The first ones were grown by kids last year at Skyview Elementary. The ones we stocked in May were grown by them and Morgantown Learning Academy. It’s a really valuable learning experience.
On what you can do to help
One good way is with the (newly revived) Citizen Scientist program. It’s a great way to learn about the watershed. We recruit individuals throughout the community in Mon and Preston counties to help us with water monitoring and keep an eye on the creek. We provide a toolbox and they take monthly measurements of water quality in Deckers Creek. We also hold rain barrel workshops—you connect a rain barrel to the downspout on your house to collect water to reduce stormwater runoff. You can use the water to water plants, wash your car. The workshops provide a way for us to spread the word that directly dumping chemicals, pet wastes, paints, cleaners, and other liquids into storm drains can contribute to the pollution of our waterways.