Mountain Watershed Association has received a donation of a twenty-one-acre stretch of undeveloped land along the Indian Creek Valley Trail to be incorporated into the hiking and biking path. The parcel was donated in honor of Willis B. Miller and Mary L. (Swisher) Miller, continuing a longstanding tradition of the family contributing to the community.
Mountain Watershed Association has big plans for the parcel, aligning with Willis and Mary’s values. Willis was a coal miner in the Melcroft area, doing more than 40 years underground, and as such, took any chance he got to explore the outdoors in the sunshine. The crescent of undisturbed forest, bustling with birds and leafy vegetation, will soon be available for others to follow in his footsteps.
Similarly, Willis’ wife, Mary, received her nursing degree at University of Pittsburgh but returned to the mountains to serve her neighbors in the Well-Baby program, traveling up winding mountain roads on horseback to help young mothers with their infant children. This program, led by Dr. Eleanor Morris, provided resources and education for parents about their baby’s stimulation, learning, and security needs, and the work required a steady dedication to the region.
Mary’s father also started the local Lions Club, which Willis joined. There, he spent lots of time with Mary and her father, continuing his service as the organization rallied the community around flea markets and fundraisers. Willis ran the free glasses giveaway, where folks in the area donated old eyeglasses to those in need. The Lions Club made repairs and matched the gifts to community members who otherwise would have trouble financing them. Willis spent over fifty years as a member.
Mary and Willis both understood the great privilege we enjoy in the outdoors, even in winter amongst the naked trees of winter rattling in the wind. Avid skiers from a young age, both slaloming down Seven Springs’ land before it was developed into a resort. They also traveled through all 48 continental states a total of three times in an RV with the mission of hiking and camping through national and state parks, sprinkling their trips with sublime wilderness.
The family has donated to the community before, including a strip across from the Indian Head Church of God, which was meant to preserve the sanctity and tranquility of the space as a wild buffer. On their own properties, they enjoyed the local biodiversity, becoming avid birders with notebooks chock-full of species, locations, and dates of sightings from near and far. Friends of Mary and Willis often called on the house to update them on recent sightings of rare avian visitors.
Mountain Watershed Association hopes to uphold the memory of Willis and Mary and the tradition of the family by channeling the donation for conservation, recreation, and education, practicing good stewardship of the woods and fostering new growth. MWA is also in the process of establishing an on-site boat launch for the community to enjoy the scenery from the water. This location on the creek is calm and glassy and should serve as an excellent spot for launching and landing. When complete, the twenty-one-acre donation should stand as a celebration of the region’s wilderness for those of us who seek it out, as Mary and Willis Miller did.