By Stephen Smoot
In the wake of a successful Trout Fest celebration on the first weekend of the month, the Franklin Town Council met to review the event and conduct other business.
First, the council heard an update on the Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau from executive director Amber Nesselrodt. Melinda Brooks, a CVB board member, also joined via phone.
First, they discussed digital communications upgrades. These include a QR code on the door of the CVB office. Visitors can use the free Wi-Fi to access the code and learn more about tourism destinations and information. The CVB has also created and updated its calendar of events. These include weekend events at local distilleries, anniversary celebrations, fun events, and more.
Nesselrodt shared with the council, “we’re always updating that.” She added that the CVB expects to have new brochures and an adventure guide available in June.
Next, the council heard about the new legislation that limits liability on landowners who agree to allow rock climbers to access formations on their land. Now, private landowners can make agreements with climbers to allow access in exchange for the climber assuming the risk of scaling the rocks. “There are so many rock formations out there that can help to highlight our area and bring people here,” Nesselrodt said.
Bruce Minor, town councilman and emergency responder, raised the concern that some formations may present a challenge to rescue units. “Should they fall,” he said, “it’s up to locals to take care of them.” He added that units need funding for equipment and special training. While Seneca Rocks Climbing School does offer assistance, they only remain open for nine months.
Bob Horan, mayor of Franklin, stated, “This rock climbing effort is a highly technical skill. It takes a lot of effort to get that kind of training. We need good instructors to lead them in the right direction.” He then described his own experience scaling Seneca Rocks.
“The main issue for us is gear,” Minor said, then added, “We don’t want people to get hurt and then put a black eye on the area.”
Nesselrodt then floated ideas that could connect town and CVB priorities. These included a plastic brochure rack and recycling bins as part of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s “Leave No Trace” program. Officials brought up the potential issue of having enough staff and time to manage such bins and suggested partnering with a company that does this work.
After the close of town business, the mayor invited public comments. Ben Hubbard came in to share concerns about Bluebird Lane, which he called “horrendous.” He stated that the ditches had only been pulled once and that the road has insufficient gravel. Hubbard also told the council that the addresses on the street had the wrong numbers and asked who had responsibility for that.
Frank Wehrle, town administrator, responded with “we don’t control the addressing in town.” He added that “we have been talking about getting a grader. We can only do so much with a backhoe.”
Hubbard’s final question related to who owns the property between the road and his land. Wehrle said that he could look that up.
Finally, the council discussed Trout Fest with Elizabeth Scott, who also works as a town official. She said of Trout Fest, “We thought it was a success. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.” She added that “Monday morning, we got a message from a girl who wants us to partner with Bass Pro Shops next year.”
Kristin Dingess, Franklin town council member, thanked Scott for all the work she and her team put in on Trout Fest.
Some concerns did arise, however. Minor suggested that traffic control in the festival area could improve to enhance the safety of pedestrians, especially children.
Scott then informed the council about preliminary indications of the economic impact, saying “all the Air BNBs were full. The hotel was full.” She also said that the bowling alley had enjoyed increased business.
“I feel like our businesses benefited greatly,” Scott said.