For the second year in a row, coaches and referees participating in Wythe County Youth Football and Cheerleading will be required to undergo a one-hour concussion training workshop prior to the fall 2015 football season.

Preventing youth concussions is a major priority for the county’s youth football league and Wythe County Parks & Recreation officials have made educating participants its number one goal.

“Education is power and we’re doing everything we can to make for sure that the parents, referees and coaches have all the resources they need to keep kids safe,” said Scotty Vaught, the county’s youth sports coordinator.

Vaught, who has worked in youth athletics for over eighteen years, said the league is going out of its way to prevent concussions from ever happening in the first place.

“Our coaches are training the players on how to properly tackle so as to reduce the risk of concussion. The parents are receiving literature detailing concussion prevention – we’re taking this very seriously.”

In the event of a concussion, the county is also taking a proactive stance in treatment.

In partnership with Heartland Rehabilitation Services, the county will be hosting a mandatory concussion seminar for all football and cheerleading coaches and referees.

The hour-long event will be held at Wytheville Community College in 218 Carroll Hall.

“We realize that a lot of people are vacationing in July and so we’re holding two separate workshops – this will ensure everyone is able to attend at least one of the courses,” said Vaught.

The two seminars are scheduled for Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, July 28 at 7 p.m.

Traci Roberts, who serves as Heartland’s regional director of operations will be the primary speaker for both events, while Vaught will be fielding questions pertaining to youth football protocol and policies.

The seminar will provide volunteers with information relating to how to spot signs of concussions, common symptoms, as well as how to administer pre-arrival care to athletes who may have suffered from a concussion.

Parents will also be given concussion related information at the start of the football season.

Individuals wishing to learn more about the concussion workshop are encouraged to contact Scotty Vaught: (276) 223-4518 or [email protected].

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Wythe County Courthouse Bell: Captured from British Warship

Though the United States officially earned its independence in the bloody American Revolutionary War, fought for more than eight years (1775-1783), in reality, any national sovereignty the young Republic enjoyed was fragile at best. The British government routinely kidnapped American sailors on the high seas, introduced burdensome trade restrictions against the former colony and insulted the infant-country’s national honor at every turn.

In June 1807 tensions between the two countries reached a tipping point off the coast of Virginia when a Royal Navy ship, HMS Leopard, attacked the USS Chesapeake in American waters, killing three crewmembers and wounding an additional 18 – after a short skirmish, British sailors boarded the American vessel and captured four crewmembers they accused of having deserted the Royal Navy, one of which they ultimately hanged. The incident created outrage throughout America, as citizens demanded the Federal government to take action.

Over the next five years, relations between the two countries grew even colder.

In June 1812 President James Madison, a Virginian, sent a message to Congress recounting American grievances against Great Britain. The House of Representatives deliberated for four days behind closed doors before voting 79 to 49 to declare war, the Senate agreed by a margin of 19 to 13.

The war, which is often referred to as America’s Second War for Independence, drug on for two years and eight months and ultimately ended with no significant change in boundaries and could best be described as a stalemate (The British had burned America’s capital, while the U.S. had successfully invaded parts of British-Canada and defeated the English in dramatic fashion at the Battle of New Orleans).

Though neither side could claim total victory from the conflict, the war is credited with securing additional sovereignty for America, eliminating the threat of future war with England and the young country scored enough victories to satisfy its honor.

Among the many battles of the war was the Battle of Lake Erie, which occurred on September 10, 1813, near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The naval skirmish resulted in a decisive American victory, which culminated with the defeat and capture of six British Royal Navy vessels. This ensured American control of the lake for the remainder of the war, which in turn allowed the United States to recover Detroit.

Though most of the captured British ships were reconditioned for battle as American naval ships, others were eventually dismantled and destroyed.

Among the many prizes of war, was an iron bell that had been cast in Germany and used aboard an English warship.

The bell bore a German inscription, which being translated is:
“The Welfare of the Ship, The Lady Elizabeth. For the Sirs Casper, Voigt & Co., Captain Daniel Joachim Rohlap, Anno 1781. ‘Me’ Ioh’ Iven’ in Hamburg.”

Following the war’s end, Southwest Virginia attorney Alexander Smyth, who had served as a commander of American forces along the Great Lakes region, returned to his home in Wythe County and presented the bell to county residents as a gift.

The bell was placed upon the county’s courthouse where it served as the county’s bell for nearly a century.

On January 26, 1900, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors voted against spending any additional money to make further repairs to the aging building, deciding instead to commission the construction a new county courthouse.

The new government-seat was designed by famed architect Frank P. Milburn, whose resume included the South Carolina State House and Florida Capitol Building.

In August, the county obtained a parcel of land along Fourth Street and construction began on the new building, with J.E. Parrish serving as the builder.

In July 1915, the Stuart Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented the county with a wooden structure suitable for mounting the historic bell – ensuring its safe preservation for future generations.

Today, the bell stands in a hallway just outside of the Wythe County Clerk of the Court’s office – flanking the bell is a framed history briefly describing the county bell’s journey from Hamburg, Germany, to England, to the Great Lakes, to Wythe County, Virginia.

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The National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg, Virginia, has issued a flood watch for several Virginia and West Virginia localities, including Wythe County.

According to the special weather statement, the federal agency cautioned that heavy rainfall is possible throughout the weekend.

“A weak front across the region will start to combine with the remnants of ‘Bill’ to produce periods of heavier showers and thunderstorms Saturday afternoon,” stated NWS in their Flash Flood Watch statement, adding, “As the core of this system passes over the mountains Saturday night, more widespread heavier rainfall along with embedded thunderstorms could occur. This may bring between 1 and 3 inches of rain with locally higher totals through early Sunday.”

According to weather officials, rounds of showers and thunderstorms may bring enough rainfall to cause creeks and streams to flood with flash flooding possible where the higher rainfall rates occur.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should flash flood warnings be issued.

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Visitors to Rural Retreat Lake in Wythe County will have yet another reason to smile this summer, as the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has just completed work on a second fishing pier at the 90-acre impoundment – this one being located on the southern shoreline of the lake, roughly 1,000 yards from the dam.

According to DGIF officials, the pier, which has been constructed in the shape of a “T,” extends approximately 69 feet from the bank and nearly 79 feet across the width of the “T”.

“We’re pleased with the investment DGIF has made in the lake and are certain that visitors to our campground will appreciate additional opportunities to fish,” said Kevin Williams, Director of Parks and Recreation for Wythe County.

Wythe County tourism officials say that 2015 has been a spectacular year for the lake, as numerous improvements and renovations have been made to the park.

“Last month, we were named by the Virginia Tourism Corporation one of the ‘13 Favorite Virginia Campgrounds for Summer,’ last week a local high school student caught a four-and-a-half foot long fish at the lake, and this week, DGIF unveiled a top-notch fishing pier,” said Jeremy T.K. Farley, Tourism Director for Wythe County, adding, “It’s just been a great season for the lake!”

In addition to the national publicity and visible improvements, DGIF has implemented several ‘behind-the-scenes’ enhancements to the impoundment.

The entrance to the emergency spillway was widened to be certain that water could enter and flow through as needed during a major storm event and an electronic rain gauge that links to emergency officials in Richmond was installed.

The Rural Retreat Lake is a partnership between Wythe County and DGIF – Wythe County manages the campground and surrounding facilities, while DGIF owns the impoundment.

In addition to the 74 primitive and RV-hookup campsites, the Rural Retreat Lake Park & Campground also includes the 90-acre fishing lake, a stocked trout pond, numerous hiking trails, picnic shelters, junior Olympic size pool and adjoining kiddy pool, 9-hole Frisbee golf course, and children’s playgrounds.

The campground’s official website is www.RuralRetreatLake.org. Individuals wishing to contact the campground may do so by calling (276) 686-4331.

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Last week, the Virginia Tourism Corporation named Wythe County’s Rural Retreat Lake as one of the Commonwealth’s “13 Favorite Campgrounds,” this weekend, a local high school student from Rural Retreat proved why the county managed park made the cut.

Saturday evening, Harley Mitchell, 17, was fishing from a boat with friends inside the 90-acre lake when he hooked what may have been a state record fish, a grass carp measuring nearly 4.5 feet in length.

According to Mitchell, it took him more than twenty-five minutes to reel in the mammoth fish and when he made it to shore, there were no scales capable of registering the weight of the fish.

Mitchell and his friends had their pictures taken with the carp and measured the fish, documenting its length to be 52.5 inches (4’ 4.5”).

If their measurement is correct, the fish at Rural Retreat Lake surpasses the largest documented catch of a grass carp in the entire nation. According to LandBigFish.com, the nation’s top grass carp was caught at West Virginia’s Warden Lake in 2005 and measured only 50.75” in length – nearly two inches shorter than this weekend’s catch at Rural Retreat Lake.

“We measured it from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail,” said Mitchell, adding that he released the fish back into the lake after taking pictures to prove his catch.

Officials from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries say grass carp were introduced to the lake nearly 20 years ago as a means of controlling weeds.

Despite the fact that grass carp eat up to three times their body weight each day, the fish can be extremely difficult to catch due to their vegetarian habits and skittish nature.

“Mr. Mitchell’s catch over the weekend serves as a perfect reminder as to why so many people choose to vacation at Wythe County’s Rural Retreat Lake & Campground,” stated Jeremy T.K. Farley, Wythe County’s Tourism Director.

Kevin Williams, who serves as the county’s director of Parks & Recreation, echoed those same sentiments.

“It’s been a big year for the lake, last week we were included in Virginia Tourism’s ‘13 Favorite Virginia Campgrounds For Summer’ article and then this weekend we have a local high school student reel in what may have been a national record.”

Williams said that a lot of work from numerous governmental agencies go in to maintaining the lake and campground and that the county staff who works at the campground take great pride in the memories they help to create.

Rural Retreat Lake is managed by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the campground is managed by the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation.

The lake has a healthy population of muskies, northern pike and largemouth bass.

Individuals interested in making camping reservations at the Rural Retreat Lake may call (276) 686-4331.

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