The historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike connected the upper Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Staunton with the Ohio River at Parkersburg. While the initial nomination of the SPT Byway was specific to the sections of the Turnpike in Pocahontas and Randolph Counties of West Virginia, throughout the work on this project the vision has included working towards a much more comprehensive treatment of the Turnpike and the region it served. By furthering outreach both across the geographic areas traversed by the turnpike, and linking with other area attractions that share common themes, a much more extensive, and exciting, tourism experience can be created.
Extending the Byway west to Parkersburg was nominated by the SPTA and by local leaders in the western counties. Two separate nominations – one for Randolph County beyond Beverly, Upshur, Lewis, and Gilmer Counties; and one for Ritchie, Wirt, and Wood Counties -- were approved by the West Virginia Byways program in summer of 2000. This corridor management plan draft includes the resources of this expanded area, and input by stakeholders, all across West Virginia.
The entire Byway will be operated as one entity, with local contacts and partnership groups in each county or region. With approval from the state Byway coordinator, the original CMP for the initial Byway section has been adapted here to include the local resources and issues from all areas of the Byway, and thus avoiding the duplication of multiple CMPs. Only one formal organization will be needed, with appropriate representation from each area, and the expertise, resources, and marketing efforts will be available to all. Continued strong encouragement of local partnerships, grassroots activities, and regional groups working on development in their locales would remain essential, with community coordinators for each region assuring communication and providing assistance.
The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike continues from the current end of the Byway at the West Virginia/Virginia state line, east along the Turnpike route through Monterey, Virginia, including the Civil War site at McDowell, and into Staunton. The Museum for American Frontier Culture in Staunton, a well-developed living history site that interprets early frontier culture up until the time of the building of the turnpike, can provide a key entry point for the tour. Beginning the Turnpike trail at its source in Staunton, and moving westward with the Pike into West Virginia, will not only add to the context of the Pike story, but will encourage movement of tourists along the route.
There are numerous other related historic sites in Staunton and along the turnpike. Additionally, the Civil War site at McDowell gives thematic continuity with the West Virginia Civil War sites, and both historically and geographically is the pivotal connection between the 1861 Mountain Campaign sites and the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign site.
Much work has already been done concerning the Turnpike in Virginia, including an impressive study of preservation strategies by the Valley Conservation Council, and a major project of trails and interpretation in McDowell County. In addition, McDowell battlefield is included in the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Heritage Area. McDowell is also included on the Virginia Civil War Trail, as is a sign interpreting Camp Allegheny in West Virginia. The original Turnpike passes through George Washington National Forest and some sites are being preserves and signed by the U. S. Forest Service which is a major potential partner in Virginia.
The opportunities for working in conjunction with these efforts are tremendous. By drawing upon the larger population and travel numbers in Virginia, travelers along I 81 at Staunton, and those already attracted to the Civil War sites in Virginia, we can encourage many of those visitors to continue further into West Virginia and offer them a unique experience.
Virginia and West Virginia promoters of the Turnpike can work together in dissemination of information, brochures, maps, and promotional materials; continuity in directions and interpretation; develop common logos and identity; and cooperative marketing. Designation of the Virginia sections of the Turnpike as Scenic Byway would greatly enhance this cooperation and benefit both states.
Nomination of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike as a National Scenic Byway is highly recommended. The historic qualities of this route had national significance in the settlement of the region; and major sections of the route retain exceptional integrity of their intrinsic quality resources. This designation would greatly strengthen the promotional appeal and the funding opportunities for the Byway. The future potential of extending the National Scenic Byway the entire length of the historic roadway through both states would be clear.
The Civil War theme of this initial section of the Byway is a logical extension both thematically and for tourism interest. The Civil War First Campaign is nationally significant: Gen. George McClellan gained fame here and was promoted to lead the Federal Army of the Potomac, Gen. Robert S. Garnett was the first general killed in the war, and control of western Virginia led to formation of a new state. A number of Civil War sites related to this campaign are located north of the Turnpike in Belington (Laurel Hill) and Philippi (Battle of Philippi and Covered Bridge) along the historic Beverly–Fairmont Turnpike and at Parsons (Corrick’s Ford). Additionally there are sites related to the Cheat Summit portion of the campaign along the historic Huttonsville-Huntersville Turnpike just south of the SPT, including Elkwater, Mingo Flats, and Valley Mountain.
Both Laurel Hill and Philippi have strong preservation and development efforts underway, and including coordination of interpretation and marketing with these sites is crucial. Supporting further preservation, development, and interpretation that includes the other sites would also contribute to the Byway story. Active participation in the development of the First Campaign Civil War Trail, and other projects of the statewide Civil War Task Forces, will enable the Turnpike Civil War resources to be coordinated with other efforts to develop this important theme.
Railroad and lumbering history offers another theme that connects the Byway with other area sites. The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area is coordinating forest heritage themed tourism throughout the highlands region of West Virginia and western Maryland. Cass Railroad State Park in Pocahontas County, towns such as Durbin and Mill Creek, and the Railyard development in Elkins are all representative of the lumbering and railroad era. Early settlement history is also rich along the western sections of the Turnpike, and a unique interpretive opportunity for Native American history is available at Seneca Rocks.
Whenever possible, packaging of heritage resources should be coordinated across geographic and thematic lines, including cross-promotiona, and making information on one project accessible to those involved with another. Many heritage tourists will be interested in more than one period of history or type of site, and most from out of town will have no concern with where one county meets another. A coordinated package that could promote the region for heritage tourists would be most desirable, and a heritage corridor, related to but not limited to the turnpikes, may some day provide a framework for that presentation. Such a concept can also be expanded to link up with other initiatives, such as cultural heritage events and festivals, and linkage of lumbering history with forest recreation. By presenting multi-county regions, visitors to one area would be made aware of areas of interest around them, thus offering a more varied experience and encouraging longer stays. Then the tourist, once "hooked," could focus on more detailed information on the sites and activities which appeal to them most.
The concepts and partnerships that are being developed in the Byway project can serve as a basis for cooperation across agencies and geographic lines. By actively participating in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, in the highlands region; Frontiers to Mountaineers in the central region; and other heritage area projects that are appropriate for Byway resources, we can offer richer interpretation and context, while expanding the reach of our promotion. The principles of partnerships, coordinated planning and promotion, and use of heritage resources as a springboard for appropriate development for the region can provide exciting benefits and progress for our communities.
In developing the Byway, we can view our efforts as more than merely the promotion of a specific roadway. Instead we look at the themes and stories that the roadway illustrates, and how it helps to tell the unique stories of our region, and to make all of those exciting stories come alive for our citizens and our visitors.
Civil War Discovery Trail and West Virginia Civil War Task Force. A statewide Civil War Task Force is active under the leadership of the state Division of Tourism, to coordinate and market Civil War sites throughout the state. The initial job of the Task Force was to identify sites and initiate the state program for the national Civil War Discovery Trail of the Civil War Trust (now Civil War Preservation Trust). Fifteen West Virginia sites were initially identified and named to this Trail, including the First Campaign sites of Philippi, Rich Mountain, Cheat Summit, and Camp Allegheny. Beverly and Camp Bartow have since been added to this trail. The Tourism office, in cooperation with the Task Force, has developed a statewide Civil War brochure that identifies these, as well as some additional, sites. With additional grant funding, the CW Task Force is working on Civil War Trail signage for the First Campaign, including many of the SPT Civil War sites. These interpretive signs are being coordinated with the Byway interpretive signs.
Cultural Heritage Tourism Program. Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, in partnership with Main Street West Virginia, is currently operating an initiative, funded in part by the Benedum Foundation with matching state funds, to develop a statewide West Virginia Cultural Heritage Tourism program. The project provides technical assistance, partnerships on a variety of joint projects, and work toward developing a long term Cultural Heritage Tourism Program. SPTA has been involved in these efforts throughout their development.
These statewide efforts provide excellent opportunities to reinforce and extend the efforts of the SPTA. They also provide frameworks for our stated goal of extending our networking efforts beyond the immediate region of the initial Alliance efforts. The Alliance should take every opportunity to work with and encourage such networking and joint marketing efforts, not only for Civil War sites, but also for other heritage sites and heritage and cultural tourism opportunities as well.