Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on display at City Park. The Traveling Wall, making its second appearance in Parkersburg, lists the names of the more than 58,000 servicemen who died in the war including many from the Mid-Ohio Valley. The Wall will be here through Monday and will include a special non-denominational ecumenical church service at 4 p.m. Sunday. In addition, a thumbs up to the more than 70 volunteers including members of the West Virginia Army National Guard 1092nd Engineer Battalion and the Parkersburg High, Parkersburg South, Parkersburg Catholic and Williamstown High School football teams who spent much of Wednesday helping to set up the wall.

UP: To this weekend’s annual salute to old-time music, the sixth-annual Gathering at Sweet Creek. The gathering is held on the property of Mineral Wells resident Steve Parker at 316 Sugar Camp Road on West Virginia 21 about 2.5 miles south of the Mineral Wells exit of Interstate 77. The festival began after the Stonewall Jackson Heritage Jubilee at Jackson’s Mill near Weston changed formats and moved away from traditional arts and crafts. Many of the musicians previously performed at the Jackson Jubilee. In addition to the wonderful music, a nice thing about the festival is that it is free.

DOWN: To the person who posted on social media a story circulating earlier in the week claiming Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell allowed the Memorial Bridge to reopen despite a test showing a serious structural problem. This is not true. The bridge had recently reopened on Aug. 22 after an ultrasound showed it to be safe for traffic. The person who made this post said it was the same problem that the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant had before the tragic collapse on Dec. 15, 1967, which killed 46 people. We agree with Newell that this posting was “an irresponsible use of social media.”

UP: To the eight Wood County students who attended the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy earlier this summer. The students, who were selected from a pool of hundreds of students throughout the state who applied, were recognized at this past week’s Wood County Board of Education meeting. The students are Katherine Gnegy of Parkersburg High School, Heidi Ha of Parkersburg High, Swathi Mukkamala of Parkersburg High, Courtney Oran of Parkersburg High, Alyssa Roush of Parkersburg South High School, Courtney Stackpole of Parkersburg High, Rachel Starling of Parkersburg South and Bryan Stone of Parkersburg High. Congratulations to the students.

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UP: To Thursday’s return of the approximately 160 soldiers of U.S. Army Reserve 779th Engineer Company following an 11-month deployment to Afghanistan. The company arrived in Afghanistan in November 2013, and while there, took part in taking down of U.S. installations. We salute their commitment, and join in welcoming them back home to their families.

UP: To Beverly, Ohio, Boy Scout Nathan Bullock, 17, for his hours of work this summer restoring the historic brick sidewalk in front of the Oliver Tucker Museum. The restoration of the more-than-30-year old walkway is Bullock’s Eagle Scout project. Bullock has put in more than 200 hours on the restoration – double the 100 community service hours required for earning the Eagle Scout designation.

DOWN: To elected officials who feel it necessary to resort to snarky and unprofessional conduct when questioned during public meetings. We understand there will be disagreement on issues and discussions can sometimes become heated, but personality conflicts should never be allowed to dictate behavior.

UP: To the expected October opening of Mountwood Park’s ATV trail. Even with the opening still weeks away, the park has sold 75 permits, and expects to sell 2,000 by the end of the year. As an incentive to get users to purchase permits early, those sold this year will be good the remainder of this year and through 2015, Bob Buchanan, president of the Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission, said.

UP: To members of the national Quilts of Valor organization for their gift to World War II and Korea War veteran Charles Shepherd. Shepherd, 92, received a Purple Heart during World War II, and still carries shrapnel from his wounds in his face and hands. The quilt was handmade by Faye Gandee of Gay, W.Va., who traveled to Parkersburg for the presentation. In the 11 years of its existence, the organization has given out more than 100,000 quilts to deserving veterans. Shepherd’s daughter, Sharon Cole, nominated her father for the quilt.

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UP: To the volunteers who have spent many hours this past year getting things ready for this weekend’s Parkersburg Homecoming Festival. The fun-filled-and mostly free – weekend does not just automatically happen every year, but is the result of the dedication of dozens of people who are willing to give up their time to make great this salute to the fading days of summer before we turn the corner into fall.

UP: To the reopening of the Memorial Bridge before this weekend’s Parkersburg Homecoming Festival. The bridge closed Aug. 4 for repairs costing approximately $182,000 and included replacing 400 square feet of concrete deck. Original plans called for the bridge to be closed for two weeks, which would have prevented it from being used during the festival. Because the Belpre Bridge will be closed at times this weekend for festival events, this would have been a serious inconvenience.

UP: To the River City Treblemakers, an all-male a cappella barbershop chorus based in the Marietta-Parkersburg area, for the group’s decision to rehearse at the Williamstown Welcome Center just off I-77 on Tuesday evening. Because the Parkersburg church where rehearsals usually take place was being used, members decided to take their rehearsal public. According to several travelers who stopped at the center during the group’s performance, the singing was appreciated.

UP: To the Parkersburg High School Big Red Band’s 90th anniversary. The festivities continue today when the band will march with former members during the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival Grand Parade, which begins at noon. The band will also host an alumni reunion at 6 p.m. today in the school’s bandroom.

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UP: To the Rails, Trails and Ales Festival today and Sunday in Marietta. The event is a celebration of the outdoor recreation opportunities in the area during the day, followed by live music and craft beer during the evening. About 2,000 kayakers, canoers, bicyclists and hikers are taking part in the activities, the majority of which are free.

UP: To the continuing improvement in the health of Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt. Merritt was admitted to Camden Clark Medical Center on Aug. 3. He was listed in stable condition, but is said to be improving. Hopefully, the sheriff will make a quick recovery and be back on the job soon. Chief Deputy M.K. Smith is acting sheriff until Merritt’s return.

DOWN: To Sen. Joe Manchin’s public haranguing this week of the Kroger supermarket chain for refusing to follow the lead of other drug store chains in West Virginia by not selling cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine as the only active ingredient. CVS, Rite Aid, Fruth Pharmacy and Walgreens earlier this year agreed to stop selling these products. Pseudoephedrine, as everyone knows, is one of the main ingredients in the manufacture of meth. Meth is a serious problem in West Virginia and one of the biggest reasons for the increase in crime. The drug stores that have banned the sale of pseudoephedrine products are to be commended for their efforts. But Kroger’s limit of 3.6 grams per month per customer – about one or two boxes depending on the brand – is still well below the state’s own limit of 7.2 grams allowed for purchase per month. The West Virginia Legislature – for the past two years – has refused to pass a bill that would make these products available only by prescription. Possibly the senator’s ire should be aimed at state lawmakers, and not scold a private business for its sincere and balanced attempt to help with this problem.

UP: To the Wings of Freedom Tour, an exhibit of World War II vintage airplanes, that will be at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Monday through Wednesday. The planes – a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber, a consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber and a P-51 Mustang fighter plane – will be available for tours from noon to 5 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

UP: To the anonymous individual who purchased the property along Washington Boulevard in Belpre that will allow the youth soccer leagues to continue to use the fields through the fall and, hopefully, for the foreseeable future.

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UP: To the annual Belpre Homecoming, which continues today with several events, including a beauty pageant, bass tournament, carnival and musical entertainment at the Suddenlink Main Stage near the Civitan Park gazebo. The 80-plus-year-old event is filled with small-town fun and is also the kickoff to the annual late-summer festival slate that will take place in the Mid-Ohio Valley during the next few weeks – including the Parkersburg Homecoming, and the Sternwheel Festival.

UP: To the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce for hosting an informational meeting scheduled for Aug. 20 to discuss a possible Athens to Belpre Rail Trail. Organizers say they hope to explore if it would be possible to link the two communities with a recreational trail. If this is possible, it would be a wonderful addition to the outdoor recreation opportunities in the area. The meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m at The Unicorn Wine Guild, 1816 Washington Blvd. While the event is free, there will be a $10 charge for those who would like to eat lunch during the chat. Reservations should be made through the chamber at (740) 423-8934 or by Aug. 18.

UP: To Wood County Habitat for Humanity for its recent dedication of the group’s 69th house built in the community. The house – five months in construction – will now belong to Bonnie Lyons and her daughter Angela Lyons. Angela, 23, is paralyzed and has been living in an assisted living facility because their former home was not equipped to handle her needs. Bonnie Lyons has assisted on two previous Habitat homes. Congratulations to her and her daughter, and to this wonderful organization that makes this dream possible.

UP: To the Parkersburg Utility Board for its decision to adjust parts of the wastewater treatment plant upgrades that will now keep the project in line with original estimates. An ordinance recently approved by Parkersburg City Council gave the board the ability to issue bonds for the project for as much as $13.7 million in case bids came in higher than expected. However, the moves recommended by PUB Manager Eric Bennett will keep the project at its original $12.7 million low-interest loan.