Friends of Deckers Creek Mural
The Friends of Deckers Creek mural is both educational and artistic, a beautiful work of art along the Deckers Creek Rail Trail. Courtesy of Friends of Deckers Creek.
The Richard Mine, established in 1903 by the West Virginia Coal Company and later owned by Stephen B. Elkins, produced coke derived from coal. Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Center, WVU Libraries.
Though closed, contaminated water from Richard Mine pollutes Deckers Creek with toxic amounts of sulfuric acid and heavy metals. Friends of Deckers Creek is helping address this ecological issue. Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Center.
Backstory and Context
Deckers Creek is an important waterway that meanders from Preston County into Monongalia County, where it empties into the Monongahela River in Morgantown. The mural on the Rail Trail is a creative expression of local efforts to conserve this natural resource. Deckers Creek supports aquatic animals and plants, provides drinking water for local wildlife, and offers recreational opportunities such as fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and bicycling on nearby trails. Like many waterways in urban and industrial areas, Deckers Creek and its surrounding watershed (which extends 64 square miles) have long been polluted by abandoned mine drainage, wastewater, and litter. Since 1995, the Friends of Deckers Creek, a nonprofit organization based in Morgantown, has spearheaded efforts to improve the stream’s health and educate the public about the value of Deckers Creek.
The Friends of Deckers Creek approach education through a variety of creative programs, ranging from cleanups to the Green Business Coalition to nature storytime for children. The mural along the Deckers Creek Rail Trail in Morgantown is another unique approach to sharing its message. With a colorful landscape background, the mural explores the important flora and fauna of Deckers Creek and threats to the water quality. Deckers Creek is home to pollution-sensitive insects and fish, while both the water and animals living in the water support a host of life including trees and birds. This delicate ecosystem has been damaged by pollution, especially abandoned mine drainage. As the mural’s diagram explains, abandoned mine drainage is caused by a coal mine filling with water and leaching out toxic amounts of sulfuric acid, iron, aluminum, and manganese. Every day at Deckers Creek, the old Richard Mine dumps more than a ton of acidity and more than 800 pounds of metals into the last five miles of the creek. The mural draws attention to this issue and its larger effect on humans and the environment.
The mural stretches 12 feet by 89 feet at the Deckers Creek Rail Trail, which follows the path of the former Morgantown and Kingwood Railroad. This mural replaced a previous mural created by the Friends of Deckers Creek Youth Action Board, which was weathered and graffitied. This prompted Friends of Deckers Creek to completely reimagine the mural. They enlisted artist Michael McDevitt to design a new mural that would be both beautiful and education. On August 27 and 28, 2016, a group of 70 to 75 volunteers painted the new mural, some of which was completed using recycled paints.
The Friends of Deckers Creek mural is enjoyed by countless passersby on the Rail Trail and nearby park. A quote on the mural provides an important parting thought:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“History.” Friends of Deckers Creek. Accessed July 2018. http://deckerscreek.org/history/
Hopkins, Paige. “Morgantown Mural Undergoes Renovation.” WBOY. August 26, 2016. https://www.wboy.com/archives/morgantown-mural-undergoes-renovation/840359027
“Mission.” Friends of Deckers Creek. Accessed July 2018. http://deckerscreek.org/mission-2/
Pollack, Austin. “Morgantown art community continues to grow.” WDTV. Accessed July 2018. http://www.wdtv.com/content/news/Morgantown-art-community-continues-to-grow-442411623.html“Public Art.” Friends of Deckers Creek. Accessed July 2018. http://deckerscreek.org/public-art/