GRAFTON, W.Va. — Christmas wreathes which offered a special look to the National Cemetery in Grafton during the holiday season will live on as fish habitat in Taylor County. Members of the West Virginia BASS Nation and other organizations gathered in recent days to remove the wreathes from the graves at the cemetery and transferred them to the exposed area of Tygart Lake during the winter draw down.
Members of the fishing organization decided to start the conservation project a year ago.
“The wreathes would get thrown away after they were taken off the graves. Rather than having to pay to have them thrown away, we thought why not see if we could make them into some fish habitat and it’s evolved from there,” said Jerod Harman, Conservation Director of WV BASS Nation.
During the 2019 effort wreathes were assembled on PVC pipes connected and anchored with cinder blocks in rows along the lake bottom. The idea was to arrange them so the pipes could be disconnected and new wreathes added in future years. But Harman said there were obstacles to the plan.
“If the lakebed isn’t frozen it gets really mucky. Last year we had a heck of a time walking around out there and trying to get things placed. We thought if we could find a way to place those with a piece of equipment, rather than walking around, it would be a lot easier,” he explained.
The new arrangement is an old wooden pallet with a pipe frame attached. The wreathes are threaded onto the pipes to resemble the shape of a cube. The pallets made it simple to load, unload, and place the cubes using a tractor with a fork.
“Low and behold it work really well,” Harman said.
Harman said their new method allowed for the pallets and frames to be assembled ahead of time so the cube can literally be built at the cemetery, then simply unloaded at the lake with a machine. It makes for less work, less time, and officials are hoping to potentially expand the program to other lakes in the region.
“It’s going to continue to get bigger. We’re going to do more expanding, but it takes more people and it take money,” he said.
Harman encouraged people to donate to the Wreathes Across America program which is responsible for placing the wreathes on each veteran’s grave. BASS Nation covered the cost of materials and volunteers and Division of Natural Resources personnel provided the labor.