BY DAN TAYLOR, ENERGIZING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITIES PROGRAM COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Upper Mud River Lake is a beautiful place in Lincoln County that is an official Wildlife Management Area overseen by the WV Department of Natural Resources. The area features great hunting, fishing, swimming, and boating.
Some people overlook community assets like this one, other just appreciate them – and some see them as opportunities for community action.
These people are entrepreneurs, and Ric MacDowell is a prime example of a community-driven social entrepreneur in Lincoln County.
In the spring for 2010, WVU Extension, its Food Nutrition Program, the Wall Project, and the County Commission began a series of end-of-the-school year field trips to bring youth to Camp Lake View at Upper Mud River Lake, and teach them about the outdoors through hands-on STEM learning experiences.
Ric is both a former WVU Extension Agent in the county and an educator, keenly interested in water quality issues who has helped many in the area get septic systems to improve their watershed and quality of life.
During this same summer of 2010, a series of Free Saturday and Sunday camp events were inaugurated to promote and bring more people to the Camp Lake View facility and the lake.
A Free Wednesdays Program began in 2011 under Ric’s guidance. This program continues to run every Wednesday during the summer from 10am to 2pm, bringing hundreds of youth and their families to the camp for kayaking, canoeing and swimming, an opportunity that otherwise many would never be able to afford.
A changing building was constructed in 2011, allowing larger groups like schools to have more appropriate places for children to change before and after swimming. An open air shelter was constructed at the beach in 2013. A full-court concrete basketball court was constructed the same year.
Lifeguards and waterfront safety staff are provided by the camp, and free lunches come from local churches and service groups. Tri-River Transit provides a bus which makes stops through Hamlin, making it possible for low income youth to participate in the program whose families may not be able to provide transportation.
But, more recently, funding for this crucial community program has become harder to secure for Ric as he seeks to transition the program to new hands in the future as a retiree.
That is why programs to build up budding social entrepreneurs in the community are key. We must support the leaders of tomorrow that Ric seeks, and connect communities to the funding sources that make their dreams a reality.
Do you know people in and around the Lincoln County area who want to get involved to make this community the best place it can be?
Are you thinking of someone with a vision for more outdoor recreation opportunities, better community health, and a supported tourism industry that can help take Camp Lake View into the future? If so, reach out to me, The Hub’s Entrepreneurial Communities Program Coordinator, or Ric – we would love to get you involved!