Remembering Frank Young

By George Beetham

Frank Young was president of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy when I got involved in the wind issue. I contacted the Conservancy over the the Nedpower project along the Allegheny Front. I was concerned because the initial proposal called for turbines extending southward to scenic Stack Rock about half a mile north of Bear Rocks. I had found a notice in the Grant County Press and sent a note via the Conservancy website. My note was the first that Frank or Wind Committee Chair Peter Schoenfeld had heard about the project. At that time I was aware that the Conservancy had worked out an agreement with the developers of the Backbone Mountain project to limit turbines near scenic areas.

Peter urged me to get involved. I met him and Frank. It happened that my experience with topographic maps would be useful. I determined that if the southernmost Nedpower turbines were moved about a mile north, away from Stack Rock, the visual impact would be lessened. My study was incorporated into a proposal to the West Virginia Public Service Commission. The PSC, after visiting Bear Rocks, ultimately incorporated that proposal in approving the Nedpower permit.

In the midst of that situation I attended a Spring Review. At Frank’s invitation I sat in in the board meeting. After the meeting Frank asked me to serve out an unexpired term on the board. After thinking it over I accepted. That morphed into being asked to run for a full term. At the Fall Review I was elected. That began an association with the board that continues.

In the 20 years of my involvement, I learned that Frank was an expert in state government and politics. I sat through meetings totally amazed at the depth of his knowledge. Needless to say, that knowledge was valuable to the Conservancy. 

I also came to know Frank as a friend. We shared hilarious stories, but also some serious work. I disagreed with Frank on one issue that he championed. He acted hurt and angry. We just ended up on opposite sides of the issue. Yet we both moved on from that. Both of us favored wind power but also felt compelled to protect special places. Both Frank and Peter were instrumental in making that Conservancy policy. 

After stepping down from the presidency, Frank continued to be a strong advocate for wind power. He also continued to be a strong presence on the board. He was one of several past presidents who continued active with the board, providing valuable continuity and experience. 

Eventually I stepped down from the board. Current President Larry Thomas conferred the title of board member emeritus to keep me involved in Conservancy matters in an advisory role. 

Both Frank and Peter, both instrumental in my involvement with the Conservancy, have passed on. Their passing left voids, but voids are filled. More importantly, their stewardship contributed to a healthy board that continues the work they championed for many decades. In the past few years the board has tackled a number of projects that will protect the highlands we hold dear. 

Hopefully the board finds young board members to continue the work long into the future — people who will become as knowledgeable as Frank and Peter over time. The stakes are high. The work is sometimes daunting. But a lot of people as dedicated as those two have served over the years. West Virginians should be thankful for the stewardship and service of our late friend, Frank Young. We can honor him by continuing the work, protecting the special places we hold dear.