By Kyle Lovern
MATEWAN – More than 1,300 tires were drug out of the Tug River between Matewan, W.Va. and Burnwell, Ky. this past Friday thanks to the efforts of Keith Gibson and many other volunteers.
Gibson, who owns Hatfield – McCoy Airboat Tours, organized the clean-up effort after seeing the eyesores during his travels up and down the local waterway.
The round rubber blemishes were pulled out of the Tug Fork, which separates the border of West Virginia and Kentucky.
Gibson picks up his customers at the boat ramp below the floodwall at Matewan.
Volunteers were paid $5 for every tire they pulled from the river on Friday. The tires were taken to Mountain State Recycling owned by Thomas Taylor which is located in North Matewan.
The crews waded the river near Matewan and placed tires onto jet, canoes, kayaks and small boats for conveyance to the pick-up sites.
“Tires are everywhere in this stretch of river,” Gibson said. He views the tires and other trash while operating his airboat business. He realized the eyesores were not good for the local tourism business.
“I counted 100 tires near downtown Matewan the other day,” Gibson said. He said the crews ended up getting 219 tires below and along the Matewan floodwall. “My brother pulled out 242 along the golf course at Sprigg,” Gibson added. “A crew got 162 out at the Paw Paw Bush area (a well-known feud site) on the Pike County Side.”
Some of the volunteers actually continued working over the weekend and on Monday. Gibson said with the threat of severe thunderstorms and possibly heavy rain coming into the area on Monday evening, he knew the water would “muddy up” and it would be hard to find more tires after that until the river clears up again.
The Turn This Town Around program and the National Coal Heritage Area each contributed $2,500 and the Mingo County Commission contributed $1,500 to the effort.
Sgt. Larry Rockell, an officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, was also at the clean-up on Friday.
Kentucky House of Representatives Chris Harris, who represents Pike and Martin Counties, said a water trail is being planned along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy.
He said he hopes more access ramps for small boats can be built.
Harris said it was great to see both states working together to remove the tires.
Lunch was provided by the town of Matewan for the workers.
Gibson hopes to make this an ongoing event and hopes that this effort will bring some pride back to local residents.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)