HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 18, 2014 – Summer break: a fleeting time for students, teachers and professors to change their routines and relax between academic years. That’s not entirely the case for Dr. Martie Bell, associate professor of physical education at High Point University. She’s spending her summer volunteering in the mountains of Virginia’s George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.
Working as hosts for the U.S. Forest Service at the High Knob Recreation Area near Norton, Virginia, Bell and her husband, Harry Warren, oversee and maintain the area’s campground, trails, lake and historical bathhouse in an effort to attract more visitors and keep the forests open. Bell also ensures visitors play their part in the conservation efforts as well, encouraging participation in camp site payment and cleanup.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1938, High Knob is the highest camp ground in Southern Virginia at an elevation of 3,800 feet. Campers have a choice between 14 campsites – all without electricity – that encourage them to put down the electronics and get in touch with nature.
Several recreation areas in the national forests have been permanently closed due to a lack of both visitors and maintenance. Without their work at High Knob, Bells says even more of the forests would face the same fate.
“We’ve all been given the opportunity to make a difference,” she says. “It’s so important to keep these national forests open and keep their history alive.”
“The rangers got to know us really well when my husband and I were camping in the area last year,” Bell says. “They saw how environmentally conscious we were and asked us to volunteer for them this summer.”
The couple is residing in a remote log cabin built by the CCC. While out of their comfort zones, living without access to Internet and television has not only given Bell an opportunity to catch up on reading and writing, but it also allowed her to develop personal relationships with the local community members.
“We’ve fallen in love with this place and embraced the mountain culture,” Bell says. “It’s such a unique experience to be part of a small community that has so much history. We’ve really gotten to know the people at the library pretty well – we check out their books and DVDs almost three times per week!”
“High Knob is geared for tents, not RVs,” she adds. “People who come to camp know they’re going to be surrounded by nature and sit by the campfire. They may bring a radio, but that’s the extent of it. Coming here gets them back into the essence of nature and being a family.”
Outside of her environmentalism efforts at High Knob, Bell is also actively involved in promoting green initiatives elsewhere. As an instrumental member of the HPU Green Team, Bell helps coordinate sustainable practices on the HPU campus. She is also a member of the Sierra Club.
Bell and her husband are looking forward to working as hosts again next summer.