Preservation, conservation, and protection of our intrinsic quality resources are the important first steps towards any program based on those resources. We can not enhance, develop, interpret, or bring visitors to resources that no longer exist. We can not have a resource-based tourism development if the resources have been destroyed. And the beauty, heritage, and sense of place so outstanding throughout the Byway region is largely defined by the natural and historic resources.
In some cases the building, site, or ecosystem is still in good shape either because of good care through the years, or because it has not been threatened or valued for alternative use. Often recognizing and honoring the caretakers are the best way to reinforce such conservation.
In other cases there has been damage or substantial change caused by use through the years. Then reclamation, restoration (returning to original appearance), or rehabilitation (sensitive adaptation to a new use) may be appropriate.
Preservation is not opposed to growth, and does not mean that every resource is equally valuable. Questions of priorities and cost vs. benefit analysis need to be evaluated. But stopping to think and plan first, before the damage is done or the building destroyed, gives the opportunity to make the least costly and most appropriate decisions for the community.
The region’s contemporary logging, wood products, gas and quarrying industries are evident along the highway. They are manifestations of the continuum of American industrialization, coexisting and entwined with older forms of community life and work. For the same reason that the river valleys of this region were the prime locations of early settlement, today they are still the prime locations for development.
One of the themes of the Byway would be change, evident in the development of various industries through time. One important subtext would be preservation, conservation, and appropriate management of natural resources, including how existing industries maintain the resources for sustainable growth. By addressing resource issues in the Byway themes and interpretation, we can include the ongoing industrial development and change over time and tie the modern industries in with the whole Byway story. Interpretation of lumbering and milling then and now, for instance, could also include themes of responsible woodlot management and counteract negative stereotypes about timbering. This would provide significant public relations benefits to the business, and business interests may sponsor such interpretation.
Impact of industrial development to the viewshed is inevitable, but when possible should be mitigated. We can not expect the Tygart Valley, for example, to remain a pristine bucolic landscape, for it provides the opportunity for the growth and economic life of the county. Sometimes this involves trade-offs. The large Bruce Hardwoods factory, for instance, which located south of Beverly a few years ago, is a major contributor to economic prosperity. It also is a visual intrusion, changing the landscape of what was once a wide-sweeping valley view overlooked by a lone settlement cabin.
In many cases, sensitive attention to the variety of practical, environmental, and aesthetic factors can make a potential eyesore into a good neighbor. Good planning in the siting of industrial and commercial development can make infrastructure and access more efficient and provide better service for the business, while at the same time allowing for minimizing the negative impact for the surrounding community. Attention to landscaping, site location, and natural screening for a factory can make a major difference between a sensitive addition to the cultural landscape or a major unsightly intrusion. Improvements in traffic flow, services, and appearance resulting from such attention to planning will improve the working conditions for their employees, while also improving the business’s image in the community.
Existing wood products, industrial, and commercial businesses can provide services to the Scenic Byway in the support of sites, interpretation, and marketing, cooperation with clean-up and visual screening efforts, and respect for the highway’s historic ambiance. They would gain benefits in increased market for their goods, increased good will with the local and traveling public resulting from the Byway interpretation, and improved quality of life for their employees and customers.
Development of more and better job opportunities in the area is vitally important, and the heritage tourism jobs, which will result if we are successful in preserving the Byway resources, are only one part of the larger picture. Encouraging business and traditional economic development, and maintaining the resources that contribute to quality of life and attract tourists, are both important for the community. While balancing both of these concerns sometimes takes compromise, they do not need to be essentially contradictory. Emphasizing benefits and educating business leaders about the variety of options and voluntary cooperative ways they can help the community is much more productive than taking a confrontational or regulatory approach to development. In seeking to also preserve the special qualities of the area’s landscape and heritage, and to retain the quality of life that is so valuable for residents and which brings visitors, it is to everyone’s benefit to exercise planning and forethought in development choices.
Several techniques can help to minimize and balance the sometimes contradictory needs of population and commercial/industrial growth with preservation and enhancement of heritage and natural resources.
We are faced with an unusual challenge in West Virginia because of the long experience of relative poverty and high unemployment, combined with a local ethic of extreme self-sufficiency and hostility to government intervention. As a result, many of the traditional planning tools and strategies commonly used elsewhere such as countywide zoning are not available and are widely feared. Protection strategies available in neighboring Virginia, for instance, such as agricultural and forest districts, are not supported in West Virginia statute. Overlay districts are supported in law, but are unfamiliar and unlikely at this time to be supported either in public opinion or by local governments. Even many voluntary strategies such as protective covenants or easements are unfamiliar and faced with suspicion and hostility. Thus much of the challenge of instituting improved planning for development is one of education as to the real benefits rather than unrealistic fears of such planning, and of building partnerships, communication, and trust between those parties who may have differing emphasis but who all have the best interests of the community at heart.
Educating the public and the community about the values of its historic and cultural resources can show how those resources contribute to the economic growth of the community, as well as fostering pride in our heritage, special places, quality of life, and cohesiveness of the community. By emphasizing education and partnerships, rather than confrontation or regulations, historic preservation and conservation of our other intrinsic resources can be a force for bringing people together in our communities to find solutions that are best for the whole community.
Preservation planning provides the foresight and context to evaluate, prioritize, and concentrate efforts to preserve the most important resources while balancing other concerns. Involving all partners, stakeholders, and the public in a planning process helps not only to evolve a better plan, but also to build support for carrying it out. In addition to broad based plans like this one, towns, counties, and agencies such as the Forest Service exercise planning which can be used for preservation.
Each site or collection of resources also needs preservation planning, with attention to ownership, management, restoration or rehabilitation, protection from likely threats, and minimizing impact or degradation from increased visitation.
Providing information, technical assistance, access to proper supplies, and workers trained in preservation skills and approaches can be of immeasurable help to property owners and communities. Historic Landmark Commissions established by towns or counties to recognize and encourage historic preservation within their jurisdiction can often help provide such information. Landmark Commissions which have been approved as Certified Local Governments are also eligible for survey and planning grants which can be used for resource surveys, National Register nominations, preservation planning, and education and interpretation.
Purchase of significant property is the most secure first step in preservation. Such purchase may be by a governmental organization dedicated to appropriate preservation and use of the property, by a non-profit organization formed for or sympathetic to such use or by a private business or individual committed to preservation goals. Purchase can also be combined with a preservation covenant or easement on the deed to ensure long-term continuation of the intended preservation should the ownership later pass to a different owner.
Some of the tools useful in specific instances include:
Community involvement can help promote preservation awareness through such strategies as:
Improvement of roadways can be a volatile issue particularly when new four-lane construction is being considered. The SPT Byway partners have been careful not to let controversy over such issues derail the Byway effort. It is important that the Byway, and all roadways, be safe and appropriate for the traffic they carry. Tourists as well as local residents need to travel the roads safely and efficiently. But new construction also needs to be balanced against the damage to the existing communities, and to the resources, which they can cause.
For the Byway traveler, the winding two-lane roads that have evolved from the original Turnpike route are a part of the experience. Good shoulders, guardrails, signage, and passing lanes where appropriate help to bring the road up to modern standards of safety and convenience. A review of the accidents summary provided by the West Virginia Division of Highways Traffic Engineering Division, indicates that most accidents were caused by driver error rather than road conditions. A summary of safety records along the Byway is included in Appendix A – Route and Roadways.
Certain improvements are encouraged where needed, and particularly where construction is needed such as replacing bridges or widening roadways, it is important that the historical resources be identified and protected. Byway resource surveys and local experts can be available to assist in DOT environmental surveys. Damage to historic resources should be avoided if possible, and mitigated, perhaps with additional interpretation, where that is appropriate. It is highly desirable that the Byway organization be considered and involved in this process.
Another factor is the increase in commercial traffic. On those areas of the Byway where a modern four-lane has replaced the Byway route, this is not much of an issue. But in areas where the Byway remains the primary roadway, especially in the Tygart Valley, through towns, and where the Byway is routed on the four-lane, this can cause a conflict with Byway users. Byway motorists who may wish to drive more slowly to enjoy the experience, bicylists, and pedestrians all need to be accommodated in the Byway planning. The Byway organization would like to work actively with DOH to evaluate and suggest where roadway upgrades may be needed and to ensure that all users are considered, and to help develop improvement plans that do not have negative impacts on the intrinsic qualities.
In cases where the traffic exceeds the limits of the road, there are three basic choices, which all have costs as well as benefits. Upgrading the existing road is sometimes appropriate and adequate, but often causes disruption to communities and resources immediately adjoining it. Building a new and often four-lane road in a new location has substantial environmental impact even when it avoids the historic resources, and pulls traffic away from existing communities. Maintaining the Byway on the old route for local traffic and visitors interested in stopping can help keep business in local communities while moving high-speed through traffic to the new road and away from historic districts and residential areas. The third alternative, of no change, causes less current disruption but fails to address crowding and traffic issues.
The SPTA and this plan do not recommend any of these options on a wholesale basis. We believe each particular situation, and each part of the roadway, needs to be carefully examined for the issues, alternatives, costs, and benefits involved in each choice. In this way the best possible decision can be made for the future of the Byway, convenience and experience of visitors, and most of all for the overall benefit to the local communities.