- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Feb. 9

The Herald-Dispatch on the potential impact of sports tourism on West Virginia cities:

The Village of Barboursville is about to enhance its position as a regional center for youth sports. It’s a wise move.



At a regular meeting this month, Barboursville Village Council members approved the first phase of a $1.8 million project that includes installing artificial turf, lighting and other improvements at the village’s Soccer Complex this year.

The improvements will transform those fields into a planned outdoor facility that can be converted for soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball/softball. A 60,000-square foot indoor facility is planned for an eventual second phase of the project. It could include batting cages, volleyball courts and indoor fields.

A multi-use sports complex has been a goal for many of the village’s administrations over the years. It became more of a priority in recent years thanks to the success in hosting several national youth soccer tournaments, said Mayor Chris Tatum.

“In 2009, when travel soccer began coming through our town here, they realized what a tax benefit that was to B&O; taxes, the hotel and motel tax and from having all those people in town,” he told The Herald-Dispatch reporter Travis Crum. “You have hotel rooms full from Clendenin to below Grayson.”

According to Google Maps, those two communities are about 63 miles and 39 miles from Barboursville, respectively.

Last year, the U.S. Soccer Eastern Regional Championships brought 225 state champion teams from 13 states to West Virginia to compete for a chance to participate in the national tournament. The tournament was so large that it needed the facilities of both the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the Shawnee Sports Complex at Dunbar.

Sports tourism is a special opportunity. Instead of expecting people to come here and partake of unique entertainment options, it brings in families who stay several days to enjoy the companionship of other families from other areas who share the same passions.

Barboursville may get the most benefit from these large tournaments, but its experience shows the benefits are shared by the entire region and cross state lines.

“This project has been a long time coming, and I think this furthers our commitment to not only our youth, but to our citizens,” Tatum told Crum. “This facility, as it continues to develop over the next few years, will be something that all of our residents will be proud of and something that everyone can utilize.”

Meanwhile, people in Lawrence County, Ohio, are working on a sports tourism project that appeals to a different demographic. As reported by David E. Malloy, officials there are seeking a $3.5 million state grant to help fund what would eventually be a $35 million complex north of Ironton.

The first phase would include outdoor sports, said Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton Lawrence County Community Action Organization. The complex could be connected to Lake Vesuvius in the Wayne National Forest for activities such as ATV and mountain biking trails, he said. It also could connect to Storms Creek for kayaking, he said.

The area could be used for individual activities or for organized competitions.

“We could make Ironton a weekend destination for all types of sports activities,” said Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday. “We haven’t tapped into the full potential of the Wayne National Forest.”

The success of soccer in Barboursville and ATV trails in southern West Virginia show that tourism is more than festivals, ball games and concerts. It’s a wide-ranging industry whose potential is growing. It’s hard to say how long it will be before the field is saturated when every community tries to duplicate what we have here. Local officials are wise to be out front in this effort.

Online: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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Feb. 7

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on a bill that could help authorities process rape kits faster:

West Virginia has made tremendous strides in clearing its backlog of rape kits over the past five years. Untested kits that once numbered in the thousands, some of which dated back to the 1980s, have been processed and the number trimmed down to about 130, according to The Associated Press.

The kits are vital to sexual assault cases, as the genetic evidence collected can help locate or prove the guilt of a suspect. Kits also can exonerate those wrongfully convicted of a sex crime. And victims should not have to wait decades with the torment of what has happened to them before justice is served.

A new bill that has cleared the West Virginia House of Delegates could help authorities process these kits even faster and ensure that the system is never again backlogged to the extent it was five years ago.

The bill requires law enforcement agencies that collect evidence from a rape accusation to submit the kits to the West Virginia State Police lab within 30 days. The legislation also would allow for a system to track the kits.

Authorities also could not discard rape kits without a court order.

The bill unanimously cleared the House of Delegates, 96-0, and, hopefully, will be passed by the Senate and sent to the governor’s desk.

DNA evidence is a powerful tool, and West Virginia’s recent effort to clear its backlog of untested kits has resulted in 166 matches to suspects in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, the AP reported.

While thorough investigations are necessary, it’s important to collect and process these kits in a timely manner, and any initiative that would improve upon the existing system deserves serious consideration.

Online: http://www.wvgazettemail.com

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Feb. 7

The Exponent Telegram on a West Virginia University program in place to support substance abuse and addiction recovery:

In a state in which many young lives and families have been devastated by the opioid/drug epidemic, we are encouraged to see the state’s flagship school - West Virginia University - take such a prominent role in working to find best practices for treatment and recovery.

Besides its crucial role through WVU Medicine, as well as its research efforts, the school sets a fine example by offering its students its own recovery program - Serenity Place.

West Virginia University’s Collegiate Recovery Program serves as a “campus-wide movement to inspire and to provide opportunities for students to make changes that support their recovery,” according to its website.

In a recent story by Morgantown News Editor Clarissa Cottrill, the program’s coordinator explained its range of efforts.

“We look at recovery very broadly,” Andrew Caryl said, pointing out that students who have had issues with substance abuse, eating disorders, family dealings with addiction and those who just want a sober, healthy community on campus are welcome. “We do everything from recovery meetings, traditional 12-step to alternative recovery groups.”

Cottrill shared the story of someone in recovery who explained the appeal and success of WVU’s program.

“They made recovery attractive is what they did, and I wanted that,” Drew O’Connell said of the first time he heard of WVU’s program.

“They were going to school. They were getting degrees, and they were in recovery like I wanted to be. I learned from them and I asked questions, and school became hope. I ran with that,” O’Connell said.

Finding a place that is welcoming to those in recovery, and that provides a haven from the party aspect of college life, is essential to successfully combating addictions.

“Any college campus, especially a major university, is not always going to be a recovery-supportive environment. Part of the normal socialization process for college students is partying and drinking … and that’s not conducive to a student in recovery being successful,” Caryl said.

“We’re on a major university campus where there’s been a reputation for partying, and that’s part of the normal college experience. I think it necessitates that we offer the support and space necessary for these students to be successful in their recovery and their academic career and beyond once they leave WVU,” Caryl said.

Providing those in recovery the ability to learn to balance life’s pressures - whether that be as a student or a person with a family and/or career - with addiction is pivotal to long-term recovery.

And in the Mountain State, helping those who have been addicted find the pathway to recovery will be pivotal to reversing a downward trend and breaking the chains of poverty that grip so many.

We applaud WVU’s concerted effort to be part of a much-needed solution.

Online: https://www.wvnews.com

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