The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike is the historic highway from Virginia’s upper Shenandoah Valley to the Ohio River. Begun in 1838 and completed in 1845, the road was designed by master engineer Claudius Crozet. The road was prized by both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War as essential for the control of western Virginia, and the road was the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy”.
Today, much of the route follows modern highways. Other portions are still intact back roads, offering excellent opportunities for visitors to experience the turnpike much as it was 150 years ago. The Byway and its Backways pass through Pocahontas and Randolph Counties in the high Allegheny Mountains of the central Appalachians, crossing some of the most scenic, historic, and rugged terrain in West Virginia. It then continues westward through Upshur, Lewis, Gilmer, Richie, Wirt, and Wood counties, an area of varied topography and land uses.
Starting in 1994 from a collaborative effort of groups and individuals concerned with protecting and promoting the historic sites along the Turnpike, the informal Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance (SPTA), with assistance from many partners, has identified resources, sponsored events, and provided interpretation projects for parts of the Turnpike. The Alliance, with broad support throughout the counties, nominated the Turnpike through Pocahontas and Randolph County as a West Virginia Byway. In June, 1997, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway was designated along US Rt. 250 from Top of Allegheny to Beverly, as well as designation of four back road sections of the original turnpike route as Camp Allegheny Backway, Back Road Backway, Cheat Summit Backway, and Rich Mountain Backway. In June 2000, the remainder of the route in West Virginia to Parkersburg was added to the Byway designation. Mostly following the older routes before four-lane construction, the Byway loops through Elkins to follow old Rt 33, reconnects from Rich Mountain backway, then continues through Upshur and Lewis counties. Crossing into Gilmer County, the road becomes WV 47 and continues with that designation through Richie, Wirt, and Wood counties.
The SPTA and additional partners have worked as a Byway Planning Group to develop this Corridor Management Plan (CMP). This CMP offers a blueprint to protect and enhance the many historic and scenic resources along the route; to present these resources to the public for recreational, cultural and educational enrichment; and to further develop tourism businesses and infrastructure for the region’s economic benefit. With properly planned development and promotion of the resources, the plan will increase low-impact heritage tourism that maintains the region’s quality of life while bringing increased economic development.
The CMP recommends investigating applying for National Scenic Byway status for the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. The CMP also recommends continuing work with regions in Virginia along the historic route, with goals of cooperative interpretation and promotion for the entire route.
This CMP is the result of several years’ work of research, public meetings, discussions and feedback, plus the practical experience of professional consultants as well as those working with Byway sites. It consists of three parts: the narrative discussion of issues to be addressed in the development of the Byway; the practical "plan" derived from the Byway goals and leading to the concrete action steps to bring those goals to fruition; and the detailed information provided in the appendices of the Byway assets. The plan will be flexible in order to be updated periodically as conditions and needs change. Most importantly, it is also a working document that will result in concrete action of benefit to the whole Byway region.
The CMP presents an exciting vision of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway as a vital dynamic contributor to community economic development and to the sustained high quality of life and respect for our resources that makes West Virginia so special.
As identified by the Byway Nominating Group for the Byway nomination, the Byway vision is:
The historic Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike was highly significant in the settlement of western Virginia, and in the strategically important Civil War campaign that was waged for control of the pike. The purpose of the Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike Byway is to interpret and present the story of this roadway, of the countryside through which it passed, and of the people whose lives it affected. We seek to protect and enhance the historic, archaeological, cultural, scenic, natural, and recreational qualities and resources along this byway, and to encourage low-impact heritage tourism for the area. We envision a byway encompassing a variety of experiences, from scenic mountain back roads reminiscent of the original pike to modern highways serving prosperous communities that have grown up in these beautiful surroundings. The varied resources along the route will be linked by interpretation that relates the history of the route to its modern experience.
This vision can become real in a wide variety of ways.
The Byway Planning Group has formulated four Goals for the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway. We will use them to guide the development of the Byway as outlined in this Corridor Management Plan.
Identify our intrinsic quality resources (historic, archaeological, cultural, natural, scenic, and outdoor recreational) and work to conserve, protect, and restore them.
Provide interpretation and education about our intrinsic resources, and appropriately develop them for visitation in ways that value authenticity, quality, and respect for the resource and the community.
Plan for and encourage tourists to visit the Byway and our communities so they will be attracted by the resources the Byway offers. Develop tourism services and businesses that will provide jobs and community economic development. Provide cooperative promotion and marketing of the Turnpike as a heritage tourism destination. Offer an authentic, quality, positive experience for visitors and the community.
Promote constituency and grassroots involvement that will encourage pride and stewardship. Utilize collaborative partnerships to work together effectively to bring the Turnpike vision alive.