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Captina Conservancy nearing anniversary

Photo provided Rich Sidwell, a Captina Conservancy board member, gives a presentation Nov. 17 at Beallsville, when more than 90 people took the Raven Rocks History Tour to learn about the families that lived in the Raven Rocks area, using Elsa Crooks Harper’s book “An Enchanted Childhood at Raven Rocks” as a guide. They hiked the property and ravines. The Captina Conservancy organized the event. The conservancy will celebrate it’s 10th year in 2020.

BARNESVILLE — The Captina Conservancy has no shortage of ongoing projects and will be celebrating a decade of preserving the creek in northern Belmont County.

Captina resident Ellie Ewing, executive director of the conservancy, started work in mid-October and is looking forward to next year’s activities.

“The conservancy is going to be celebrating our 10th year anniversary in 2020,” she said. “We have 1,911 acres in conservation right now, which means that it’s protected from development, and we currently have two projects that we’re working to finalize before the end of the year, which will add another 160 acres to that total.”

The acreage will be all on one property outside of Beallsville. Ewing said the agreement is still being finalized and should be filed soon; then more information should be available on the property.

“The focus continues to be getting land and conservation easements in the Captina Creek watershed.

“That’s the heart of our mission, but we’ve recently expanded to accept property in the region. We have some properties in Monroe County that aren’t in the Captina watershed, but they’re still conservation properties. We realized there was a need. People were coming from outside of our watershed looking for somebody who was capable of stewarding their land. We realized we needed to fill that, and we were able to. We were able to extend our mission to be able to work outside our watershed but still continue to focus on Captina. Preservation is our core mission. We also do education and outreach.”

Another recent addition is the new aquatic trail guide, designed and printed through a grant from the Belmont County Tourism Council. Ewing said it should be a valuable resource for wildlife enthusiasts.

“The aquatic trail guide is new. We kind of created it from scratch to give people kind of an idea what to look at at different stops around our watershed. It just shows what kind of bugs and fish live in the water in different places. We did a birding guide last year, and this is a companion to that. We’re hoping that will help spark interest in the aquatic life in the creek and the watershed. We’ll provide some information to help people figure out what is it that they’re looking at out there in the creek.”

She said the trail guide is designed to help people arrange their own tours of the creek and to recognize the different variants and ecosystems.

“There are different varieties of organisms even within the watershed,” she said.

She said the Eastern Hellbender salamander makes its home in the creek, and there are comparatively few places the species can thrive.

“It’s because we have such high-quality water here at the Captina Creek they’re able to survive,” she said.

More recently, the conservancy hosted a history tour of Raven Rocks. Participants discussed a book by a local resident, “An Enchanted Childhood at Raven Rocks” written by Elsa Crooks Harper in the 1960s.

“It talks about her time growing up there in the early 1900s, so we’re using the book to go visit some different historic sites around Raven Rocks,” Ewing said.

She said because of the 10-year anniversary, the conservancy is working on other events and launching new programs for volunteers and additional land acquisition projects.

“We’re still working out the details, but we’re looking to have some new initiatives and big events in the next year,” she said.

Ewing is the only paid staff member. The conservancy is otherwise staffed by volunteers, and more help is always welcome.

“We could use help across the board, everything from help in the office to going out for litter pickup. We’re hoping to develop water quality monitoring through volunteers,” she said, adding there are openings for event planners and for people who want to get their hands dirty.

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