Saturday, June 18 was a scorcher, but Palatine Park in Fairmont was a hub of activity.
Up top, Bluegrass Feast hosted a variety of vendors and talented musicians, whose music reached all the way down to the water. I had heard about the music, as well as a water-based event here called the Mon River Games, and was eager to see what it was all about.
The Mon River Games, an event sponsored by the Marion County Parks and Recreation, introduced people to the river by offering paddleboarding lessons for free.
Paddleboarding is a little different from kayaking or canoeing. Users stand or sit on a wide surfboard-shaped board and paddle with a single bent oar. This may seem daunting for first-time users, so Marion County Parks and Recreation had some great volunteers on hand, including certified paddleboard instructor Nick Hermosilla. It was a good thing there were multiple volunteers, because the pier was packed!
Jessica Frame and her family had originally stopped by the park to go fishing, but saw the paddleboard demonstrations.
Her two daughters, Grace and Natalie, had never been kayaking or paddleboarding before, but were curious. Natalie said she was a little scared to try the paddleboard, but she was “determined to do it because it looked fun”. After kneeling on the board, and getting some paddling skills down, she was able to stand up on her own, and was still smiling even after she jumped/fell off. After that, you couldn’t keep her out of the water!
More than 30 people tried paddleboarding, many for the first time, including many non-swimmers who weren’t familiar with the river. Once everyone was comfortable on the boards, it was time for some friendly competition! Some participants raced around the buoys, or tried to last longer on the boards than their competitors.
Megan Connelly, a Fairmont local, was out kayaking with friends, and stopped by to listen to the music. She kindly offered up her kayak for demonstrations as well!
Megan had always wanted to explore the water, so she started borrowing a friend’s kayak and eventually got her own.
“It’s something to do and it’s easy,” she said. “I might as well take advantage of these beautiful resources, especially on a hot day like today.”
It was indeed a hot day, and many people seemed glad to cool off in the river. A lot of questions were asked about the safety of the water around the area, and in West Virginia as a whole.
Some assume many rivers are “too dirty” to swim in or have fun on. They see trash near shore, or water that isn’t clear, and assume it’s unsafe. As a result, many perfectly safe waters, like here in Fairmont, go underutilized by locals and tourists.
This has been one of the many topics of conversation among many groups discussing how to connect people with these beautiful resources.
Friends of Marion County Trails is partnering with Marion County Parks and Recreation, Main Street Fairmont, Northern Brownfields Assistance Center and us here at The Hub to create and promote opportunities to connect people to local waterways.
Events like the Mon River Games help increase physical activity and can help boost businesses centered around this water-friendly lifestyle.
If you would like to be a part of the conversation around connecting the Fairmont area to water, via events or otherwise, please join the Friends of Marion County Trails at 9 a.m., on the second Tuesday of every month at Marion County Parks & Recreation Building/Marion County CVB at 1000 Cole Street, Fairmont.
If you’re not in the Fairmont area and are interested in activities on the water, you’re in luck! The West Virginia Physical Activity Network provides resources for state parks, rentals, and organizations in your area.
If there is a resource that you know about that isn’t in the directory, contact the West Virginia Physical Activity Coordinator, Courtney Roark, at firstname.lastname@example.org.