“Showing them the abundance it provides.”
I first met Jason Gill during our New River Watershed Scavenger Hunt last summer. Jason took his family to visit nearly every site we listed, creating some fabulous memories for them. I soon found Jason to be a “man of all trades” when it comes to protecting the watershed from litter – he volunteers for New River Conservancy clean ups, after parade clean ups, on his own clean ups, you name it. He also hikes and hunts for mushrooms and maintains his own YouTube channel teaching about mushrooms and New River life. Jason is determined to be an example of what one person can do to help a watershed. ~ Lisa
You are such an advocate for the New River Watershed! How did this passion begin? Did you grow up on the New?
My passion for the New River began in the late ‘90s when I was 16, and sought guide training at Whitewater info / Raft WV. The first senior guide to teach me about the New River, and how to be a guide was Carrie Martin. The company allowed me to train, but I could not check out due to being 16 years old. I did take 70 training trips though, and had to work 3 hours without pay for every trip down the river. The next season I was 17 and joined up with the legendary Songer Whitewater in 1999. There I received my check out trip (evaluation trip) and ended up working two seasons as a guide after that.
Most of our volunteers, indeed, most volunteers, have a circle of interests that dovetail together in their volunteerism. You volunteer for the New River Conservancy, Active Southern West Virginia, and the town of Oak Hill. How do these all overlap in your world?
I am chairman of the Beautification Committee for Oak Hill City Council. I had already been a member of the New River Conservancy six months prior to this appointment. I had mentioned my membership [in NRC] to the City Council in my intent letter.
Active Southern West Virginia is all about getting up and getting outside. Basically get to moving. I’ve been doing hikes with Levi Moore and his ruck group on Facebook called Raleigh County Ruck Club. Levi really motivates me because he used to be in a wheelchair and now he is back up and moving through these woods! If folks would begin to move more and enjoy the beautiful trails and amenities we have here, I believe West Virginia’s health would improve.
Personally, I believe all this puts me in a wonderful position to initiate changes that will help the New River Watershed.
Your family took quite a tour of the New River Watershed this past summer. How do your kids feel about the New River and your work?
My children love the river, and it’s one of my wife’s most favorite places to be. In my formative years, all I ever knew of the river bank was drinking, shouting, and parties. I don’t like that nowadays, and I will not show my children that way of life on our magnificent river. Instead, I will enrich their brains, bodies, and their lives by protecting this amazing watershed. Thus showing them the abundance it provides, while also giving them an appreciation for what we have.
You blew me away with your post about candy throwing at parades. I had never thought of the single use plastic in all the candy thrown in the streets, and eventually in the river. What else aren’t we looking at in terms of the littershed of the New River?
On top of the gross amount of single-use plastic waste that I recover after parades; I feel like a different delivery method could be obtained for said candy. For instance, instead of buying as much of the cheapest candy as possible that no one eats, perhaps folks could get less candy, but more expensive and more desirable candy. I am constantly met with the adage “but its tradition.” I like to remind folks that some of the worst things in history were done in the name of tradition.
Like another of our Volunteer Spotlight-ees, you are quite the mycophile – one whose hobby is hunting wild edible mushrooms. Do mushrooms thrive in the New River Watershed? Do you forage for more than mushrooms?
Wild edible mushrooms of all types absolutely thrive in our amazing watershed of the New River. Whether you are in the valleys or the gorge, you will find many types of amazing fungi! Personally, I do not forage much other than mushrooms, namely ginseng; I leave it alone. I’m too focused on the mushrooms to care about ginseng or chasing profits.
What’s the end goal of all your hard work? Why do you do what you do for the watershed and the planet?
Simply to make a difference and to be the change that I want to see in the world. It may sound cliche, but it’s really that simple; especially if we all do it. Imagine!
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I love this type of work, and I would much rather be attempting to provide help and a solution. I feel it is better to help than to aid in its destruction or blindly ignoring the atrocities. To complain about something without helping or offering a viable solution is called fussing.
You can catch Jason Gill on his YouTube channel, Appalachian Ape Outdoors
Jason and his wife, Jacqueline volunteered for NRC’s littershed cleanup on Fayette Station Road in the New River Gorge, WV last October.