Bill Currey, chairman and co-founder of the Coal River Group, realizes the limitations of running a volunteer-driven organization.
Although the group is making great strides in its effort to revitalize the more than 100 miles of the Coal River, Currey said a nonprofit like theirs is only able to be effective when staffed by capable, passionate volunteers.
Luckily for Currey, the group is joined for 10 weeks this summer by three student interns who will be earning college credit as they run the organization's business end, staff events and work on projects furthering the group's goals.
"For us, it's a wonderful program," Currey said. "We don't have a labor expense and we've got young, enthusiastic people."
Bryan Shamblin, a 24-year-old West Virginia University student studying wildlife and fisheries management, said he read about the internship opportunity in a newspaper and realized a summer spent working on the river would be a perfect fit.
Shamblin, an experienced boater and paddler, said the internship allows him to not only get experience with customer service and finance, but allows him to indulge his aquatic passions.
As he travels up and down the river's three main bodies in a one-person sit-on-top kayak, he makes note of the various beaches, public access spots and fishing locations that would need to be marked for guests.
"We're trying to get some signage up and break it up into different sections of trips for fishermen and people who want to get out for a day," he said.
Shamblin is also undertaking a project to map the entirety of the river's 586 named streams using GPS. Before the summer is over, he said he hopes to have completed physical and digital maps of the river trail that will be both informative and allow visitors to travel safely.
A friend at school told Lauren Carte, a 21-year-old Marshall student majoring in natural recourses and recreations management, about the program.
"There's a girl in one of my classes who was doing her senior project here on river restoration," she said. "She said they were doing a canoe and kayak rental internships, and I know that would be more my field."
Carte's personal project is educational outreach for children. She organizes and promotes days where local school children can come learn about the history of the river and get a chance to try their hand at kayaking. She's also working on writing and constructing displays illuminating local wildlife and telling guests about the group's goals.