Protecting intrinsic resources from damage or intrusions is the first step, but the Byway is looking at much more than that. We want to appropriately enhance, develop and manage those resources for enjoyment, education, and visitation both by tourists and local residents.
Encouraging tourism can be a major economic benefit to the communities, creating jobs and economic impact for the region, as discussed in Chapter 11. In order to attract tourists, and to keep them coming back, we need to provide a “destination” -- a thing, or group of things, that tourists are willing to travel some distance to see or experience. We are not trying to offer a single major attraction – an amusement-park approach – on the Byway. Instead, we are focusing on authentic experiences that relate to the real past and present of the region. And we are looking to the variety and combinations of resources, each interesting on its own, which combine to make a total experience that visitors will consider to be a worthwhile “destination”.
Tourists have certain expectations of sites they want to see, and they need to have enough information to attract their interest, tell them what they want to know, offer them an experience, and make them want to know and experience more. Authenticity of resources, well-planned interpretation, interesting interactive experiences, quality services, and a feeling of welcome and hospitality can all combine to offer a tourism experience that will please visitors and create a quality reputation.
In addition to the economic benefit the tourism related dollars generate, the local community also benefits directly by the preservation, development of access and services, and interpretation created by the Byway. Every site developed with the tourist in mind is also available for a Sunday afternoon family visit, a school field trip, or other enjoyment of the local residents. The protected resources become more valuable for their historic and natural significance, help build awareness of local heritage, pride in the community, and thus enhance the region’s unique environment and quality of life for all local citizens to enjoy.
Management of intrinsic quality resources can involve preservation strategies for properties including care to prevent damage caused by visitation; protection, rehabilitation, and restoration efforts for buildings or resources (both addressed in Chapter 4); development of interpretation (addressed in Chapter 6); and development of tourism access and services such as trails, parking, tours (further addressed in Chapter 7). Both the Byway as a whole concept, and the individual sites and resources, need to be developed and managed for visitors. This chapter includes a summary of some of the types of development needed and where such measures would be appropriate.
There are a number of major historic sites within the Byway corridor, many of them Civil War sites and historic districts which have been developed, or which have potential to be developed, as a distinct stop for the visitor. The interpreted sites such as Rich Mountain Battlefield, Cheat Summit Fort, and Camp Allegheny, and potential sites such as Camp Bartow, Mt. Iser, and Fort Boreman all have similar development needs. Sympathetic ownership of the site is the first need, either as a protected publicly-owned (government or non-profit) site to be developed for visitors, or with a private owner who is sympathetic to and willing to cooperate in such development. Basic needs then are directional signage to find the site, adequate and convenient parking that does not negatively impact the site, and interpretation – usually trails, interpretive signs, and brochures. Provision for trash, rest rooms, water, and recreational facilities such as hiking trails and picnic areas are also sometimes desirable. Further development can include more personal interpretation such as guided tours, on-site interpreters or living history, and special events such as reenactments.
Community historic districts are the other major type of site, where a combination of resources and services can be combined to offer more to the visitor in a practical way. Durbin, Beverly, and Weston are well on the way for such development and are considered hub communities to develop Byway services. Beverly is the pivotal location to provide a major hub for the Byway, both because of the significance and quality of its existing resources, and due to its gateway location on the Byway and near to existing tourism services in Elkins. Other potential gateway locations are Buckhannon, Weston and Parkersburg. Durbin is another logical hub because of the concentration of trailheads and tourism entrepreneurship there. Bartow, Huttonsville, Mill Creek, Dailey/Valley Bend, and Smithville also have significant potential for additional development of community sites. In addition to the signage, parking, and interpretation which are basics of any site, such community-based sites may also offer visitor or information centers, a wider variety of attractions such as museums, historic buildings, historic transportation attractions, research, recreational and cultural activities; as well as restaurants, shopping, lodging and other services. Development of facilities for groups, activities, and cultural events can serve tourists as well as community groups, and enhanced dining and commercial opportunities will please local residents as well as visitors. The uniquely significant 1808 Courthouse in Beverly in combination with its associated historic buildings, is being developed as the Beverly Heritage Center interpretive attraction for the Byway, providing an outstanding opportunity to preserve and restore vital historic buildings, and use themfor the benefit of the Byway and its visitors. The Weston State Hospital offers tremendous opportunities for adaptive reuse that can contribute to understanding of historic stories, as well as attraction to the modern Byway. Graceland Mansion on Davis & Elkins College campus in Elkins, is a National Historic Landmark that has been restored as an inn and restaurant.
A number of other historic resources contribute to the Byway experience but are not likely by themselves to have enough significance, and/or property-owner interest, to be worth developing as a separate stop with tours, visitor access, or major interpretation. Identification and interpretation in brochures, or with wayside signage, can enable the visitor to understand the importance of the building or site, and to view it from the road, but not to intrude on the privacy of the owner. These include:
Minor camp or skirmish sites such as Cheat Pass Camp and Roaring Creek Flats, and locations of early settlement sites.
Historic homes or buildings – Many buildings have specific local or regional significance such as the See/Ward house, the Phares cabin, the WPA built stone building of the Department of Highways Garage west of Buckhannon, the Weston Colored School, and the Farnsworth House. Others contribute to the Byway history as examples of a class, such as company housing, or a typical farm house. In some cases, such as the Hutton House or Cardinal Inn, they are open to visitors as a business. In most cases they are in private use and it is not necessary that they be opened to visitors to the Byway, but their story can still be included. Owners of these properties should be included in the planning, education, and preservation activities of the Byway, and may choose if they wish to open their homes for special events that feature historic home tours.
Archaeological sites – in some cases the already identified historic sites are also archaeological sites. Interpretation of the archaeological resources, as well as signage and enforcement of no collecting laws, can help to protect the sites and educate about the significance of the resource at the same time. In the case of sites such as Native American sites and some minor skirmish sites that have not been publicly identified or located, such sites should remain unmarked as a protection against looting. The significance and story represented by these sites can be included in general interpretation such as brochures or exhibits at Byway Visitor Centers without disclosing the exact locations.
The Byway area is rich in natural resources, many of them already developed and managed by the Monongahela National Forest or West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Corporations who own large tracts of timberland will often allow public access as well. Forests, open savannas and meadows, wetlands, rivers, caves, and rock formations are all found through the National Forest and adjoining properties. In the Tygart Valley and further west property is more in private ownership, with greater residential density and more farmland. It is important to encourage access to the natural resource areas that can be made available here, such as Valley wetlands near Huttonsville, and the mountain woodlands on Rich Mountain.
Some natural resources are not available for visitors either because they are too fragile, or are on private property with restricted access. In some cases other similar resources are available elsewhere, or the sites and their significance can be interpreted with exhibits and pictures at a Byway Visitor Center. In a few instances, it may be appropriate to allow limited access with careful conservation interpretation, perhaps only for approved tour groups.
Partnerships with natural conservation-minded organizations such as watershed associations and trails groups can expand the opportunities for appropriate development and presentation of unique natural resources and ecosystems.
The Byway offers opportunity for some spectacular scenic views of the countryside. When going from east to west the Turnpike traveler goes from the rugged highlands of the Allegheny Front at over 4,000 feet to the undulating hills of the Ohio River Valley. To be most effective and safe, these need to be developed and maintained to provide for sufficient clearing to see the distant view, as well as a safe place to pull off of the roadway for viewing.
One location already being developed by the Monongahela National Forest is at the eastern peak of Cheat Mountain at the Pocahontas/Randolph County line. Specific clearing, grading for pulloff and trail, and plans for signage have been initiated.
Another spectacular viewshed is available along Camp Allegheny Backway where intermittent cleared fields on both sides of the road provide pristine long views. Due to the slow pace and lack of traffic on the back road, pulloffs are not as essential, although some attention to appropriate grading to allow a vehicle to get out of the main roadway would be appropriate. Landowners can be encouraged to keep these lands in pasture to allow for continuation of this scenic viewshed.
A potential view that could be developed would be along the western peak of Cheat Mountain overlooking the Tygart Valley. At a couple of locations where the old turnpike roadbed provides a natural pulloff location, the woods blocking the view are privately owned, and would involve obtaining landowner cooperation in clearing a viewshed. Another possibility might be a short side-road off of the Byway at the top, where the woods would be in Forest Service jurisdiction and thus easier to obtain cooperation in clearing and maintaining a viewshed.
The Turnpike also descends Buckhannon Mountain, a major escarpment with a spectacular view on the old roadway that is now a part of the freeway system. There is a former scenic overlook on SR 47 on Bean Ridge in Ritchie County. In the 1960s postcards of this view were popular. Trees along the road now obstruct the view. Perhaps this view could be opened again.
Another scenic view project is at the top of Rich Mountain just north of the Rich Mountain Battlefield proper. Clearing and developing of a scenic overlook on this knoll has been identified as a part of the RMB trails development project. Other scenic view locations along the Byway or Backways could be developed when appropriate cooperation from property owners can be obtained.
Special events offer the opportunity to highlight a community, site, or theme in a much more intensive way. They attract tourists to the event, but also raise public awareness, bring media attention, and involve local residents in the activities. Town festivals, reenactments, fairs, and other promotional events are prime ways to increase interest and awareness. They also provide the concentration of numbers of visitors to make more elaborate efforts effective.
A number of such events are traditional along the Byway corridor such as Durbin Days, the Buckhannon Strawberry Festival, the Elkins Forest Festival, and the Beverly Fireman’s Festival. Civil War reenactments held at the sites have been developed in recent years. The Battle of Rich Mountain is now successfully established on a biannual schedule, and smaller reenactments and living histories have been held at Cheat Summit Fort and Camp Bartow. Hybrid events at Beverly Heritage Day, and Gold Dollar Days in Weston combine living history, historic home tours, and heritage emphasis activities in a community setting.
Coordinating and supporting these events as Byway activities is an important component of resource development.
The Byway region is rich in traditional Appalachian culture, both as handed down to local residents from their families, and as revived and nurtured by folklorists such as with the Augusta Heritage Center based in Elkins. Events such as the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee at Jackson’s Mill a few miles from Weston bring traditional culture to a vast audience. Old-time music, traditional community dances, heritage crafts, regional antiques, farming and woods skills and folkways, and storytelling are all abundant cultural resources that can enrich the Byway experience. It is important that such culture, and those residents who choose to share it with visitors, are respected, and their privacy not compromised.
Collecting and documenting the stories of the Byway is an urgent and ongoing priority to preserve older residents’ memories. The Byway audio history project is collecting oral histories about the Byway, its communities and its themes and culture, and hopefully can be continued and expanded. These unique stories provide the material for a unique audio interpretive presentation telling the Turnpike story for visitors and the communities. The oral histories themselves will also be archived for research and future projects.
Community centers, co-op galleries, and interpretive centers all can provide opportunities to offer experiences representative of the local culture, as well as local businesses such as craft and antique stores. These can include products for sale or display such as crafts, antiques, artwork, photographs, and recordings or videotapes of music or stories. They can also be experiences such as participating in a community square dance; eating at a community dinner; hearing a musical concert or front porch session; seeing a play or living history impression; taking a specialty tour of a traditional homestead, a mushroom or edible plant walk, or an isolated historic site; joining a class in learning a traditional craft or art.
In addition, there are also opportunities for contemporary artists who derive their inspiration from the heritage and natural resources. Painters and other fine artists, craftspeople, musicians, and theater can all enrich the Byway experience.
Providing venues to present the cultural resources --whether they be crafts or artwork or music or dance for the visitor to view or participate in -- is a significant need for the Byway. A Byway Visitor Center such as is proposed in Beverly can offer a space appropriate for cultural activities, as well as a venue for presentation of crafts and other products of the culture, and can provide a significant and exciting addition to the Byway experience, without imposing on the privacy of the local residents.
Many outdoor recreation activities are already available along the Byway, especially those that are based on individual initiative to explore the natural environment. Hiking trails, rivers for fishing, woods for exploring, hunting, or primitive camping are all available, particularly on the Monongahela National Forest lands, and the Wildlife Management Areas. Further development of hiking & biking trails, trails as community linkages and in conjunction with the historic sites, and along the non-National Forest portions of the Byway are needed.
The excursion trains now offered in the Durbin area and from Elkins are an exciting example of a recreational attraction that can be developed as an integral part of the Byway experience. Additional attractions that are based on the resources and themes offer future tourism-business opportunities.
Support for and development of outfitter and recreational services will be helpful. Additional attractively developed camp sites and motor home services; boating, canoeing, and fishing services; bike and cross-country ski rentals; horseback riding; and specialty tours are all examples of recreational business opportunities along the Byway.
Beyond the planned site development already described, a variety of possible new interactive programs for visitors can offer exciting and innovative experiences. Some of these can be initially developed in conjunction with special events, or offered by reservation, then expanded to a more full-time offering as visitation numbers increase to support them. Some of these ideas include:
Specialized tours will be important, either of single sites or thematic groups of sites. These can be on-site tours of specific sites, complete tours of multiple sites including transportation, or step-on guides for bus tours or planned groups. Tour guide training can be offered with special emphasis on including human-interest stories and first person interpretation. Such training can be made available to teachers and volunteers as well as entrepreneurs, and will help to assure quality presentation. Some isolated sites that are not appropriate or accessible for self-guided visitors can be made available in specialty tours. Wildlife, botany, and other natural themes could also be featured in tours as well as with specialty brochures.
Expanded alternative transportation opportunities, appropriate to the turnpike era, are possible. Horseback trail rides, wagon, or stagecoach rides would all offer opportunities for recreation and historic interaction in the same activity. A prime opportunity for such rides would be along Camp Allegheny Backway between Camp Allegheny and Camp Bartow. Antique car rides would be another possibility, perhaps at a different location. These would help to complete the transportation story already available with road travel, excursion trains, and hiking and biking trails.
First person interpreters and living history are always popular with visitors and make a site come alive. Encouraging existing tour guides and visitor information providers to offer a first person impression enlivens the contact. Providing living history events and reenactments by volunteers can be a big draw, though volunteers are generally available only for special events. Paid interpreters at selected sites can be a goal to work towards as visitation increases.