News & Updates

Protecting Everyone’s Pastime: Highlights from the Summersville Lake Hot Spot 2022

Becca and Luke - September 13, 2022

The clear water, sheer cliffs, and green shores of Summersville Lake in West Virginia have created a unique and beautiful gathering place for outdoor recreators of all kinds. We had the opportunity to witness this fact first-hand during the recent Leave No Trace Hot Spot conducted at Summersville. As we set off on a borrowed paddle board, we floated past dozens of laughing families out for a quintessential day on the water, but after leaving the shelter of shore behind, we found ourselves dodging water skiers, tubers, and crowded pontoon boats. For the sake of our balance, we headed to calmer waters nearer to the imposing, limestone cliffs which surround much of the lake. Here we joined several anglers and paddlers as they watched climbers scaling the rocks like ants. Later we noticed a large buoy marking the sight of a sunken boat intended for scuba divers to explore. The array of activities on offer was truly impressive.

While the lake acted as an impressive playground for outdoor recreationalists, the unfortunate reality is  all of this use has brought its share of negative impacts. Litter from picnickers, anglers, and partiers washes up all around the lake creating an ever-growing challenge for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who manage Summersville Lake. Social trails beneath popular climbing routes and undesignated campsites on remote beaches have caused harmful erosion, and improper disposal of human waste in these areas presents a real threat to water quality. With over 600,000 people visiting the lake each year, these impacts easily have the potential to get out of control and damage this beautiful place.

Hosting a Leave No Trace Hot Spot played a key role in the Corps’s proactive approach to protecting the natural integrity of Summersville Lake. During the activation week, Corps staff, volunteers, and partners received training on Leave No Trace skills and principles and practiced communication techniques to effectively share this knowledge with visitors. 

Community members also had the opportunity to learn about Leave No Trace through a trivia night at a local brewery and in conjunction with the local Access Fund Climbing Stewards, we educated climbers at a popular crag on practical ways to enjoy the area sustainably. Moreover, We were also able to take part in a clean up day which allowed Corps staff and volunteers to restore trashed areas to their former luster, removing 6 bags of garbage, 2 disintegrating tires, and several large pieces of boat wreckage.

Perhaps most importantly, the Hot Spot gathered key leaders from all facets of the recreating community, initiating conversations and connections with staying power. The Army Corps of Engineers joined with partners like Active Southern West Virginia, the Access Fund, New River Alliance of Climbers, and several local business owners to discuss the current state of Summersville Lake and agree on common goals for the future. By adopting Leave No Trace as a shared framework, all these stakeholders will be able to work together to address impacts through education. This type of cooperation will safeguard the natural beauty of the lake and ensure that it will remain a pristine recreational melting pot for generations to come.  

By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about the important work of our mobile education teams.  Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Thule, Fjällräven, The Coleman Company and Klean Kanteen.


Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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