Initially, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance (SPTA) was a collaboration of interested partners representing a variety of organizations, agencies, and individuals in Randolph and Pocahontas Counties, with discussion and participation from Highland County, Virginia. Each of these areas independently became interested in developing and connecting its historic sites, and the collaboration worked well to coordinate those efforts. Early support from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the BeirneCarter Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service helped fund initial projects.
In preparing the Byway nomination, additional outreach was made to local and county governments, civic groups, and other stakeholders. To raise grassroots awareness and support, the SPTA held several public meetings at various locations along the Turnpike to make direct contacts with groups who had not previously been involved.
In the development of this CMP, two types of public meetings were held. A number of focus groups met on a regular basis to discuss resources and issues and make recommendations for the CMP. The active focus groups were: cultural (dealing with historic, cultural, and archaeological resources); natural (dealing with natural, scenic, and outdoor recreation resources); government and roadway (dealing with governmental jurisdictions, planning, and highway issues); and tourism (dealing with tourism and marketing). Participants for these groups were drawn from volunteers and representatives of other groups in the region with expertise in those issues, with particular effort made to involve more partners than had been active in the original SPTA. These focus groups identified existing resources, discussed goals, objectives, and strategies, and made recommendations for Byway development within the area of their focus. In addition, a Byway Steering Committee made up of representatives from each focus group helped to bring the information together. The four goals identified in this plan were synthesized by this Steering Committee from the work of the different focus groups.
Public meetings were held in four locations along the initial Byway – Durbin, Huttonsville, Beverly, and Coalton. Each of the goals was presented and comments collected from the participants about each area. Questions about the Byway and future plans were answered as well.
In expanding the CMP to serve the middle and western sections of the Byway, additional public meetings were held in Elkins, Parkersburg, Buckhannon, and Smithville. Discussions there included the Byway program and its effects, including the outdoor advertising impacts; SPTA goals and objectives, and discussions of intrinsic qualities and community needs in each locality.
Participation was particularly good from the citizens of the smaller communities, but we found weak spots in participation in some areas, particularly from some of the town governments. Future outreach efforts will want to concentrate on making personal contact with key groups and leaders, and making sure that Byway information is more widely disseminated. With the increased visibility as the Byway is developed, this task will become easier.
The SPT Byway needs a management structure that will serve to coordinate and follow-through with the activities outlined in this plan. Such a structure should be strong and dynamic to provide leadership and manifest the Byway vision, while also providing the services and coordination needed. This organization should supplement and work with existing agencies and organizations without unnecessary duplication of administrative resources.
One option was to continue the operation of an informal collaborative organization made up of partners contributing to the Byway. The original Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance served well to bring partners together, build enthusiasm, and serve as the nominating organization for the Byway. With the assistance of various partner organizations as fiscal agents, the informal SPTA managed several projects, including events, interpretive materials, and the first draft of this CMP. As a long-term management agency, however, the informal organization had several weaknesses. One is the dependence on flow-through organizations to receive money, when each organization has its own original priorities and constituency to consider. There is difficulty in follow-through, which becomes more critical with multiple projects underway. Another drawback is a weakness in public perception and visibility. And, inevitably, to undertake development of the scope identified in this plan, there will be a need for professional staff. Volunteers and contributions of staff time from partner organizations are always welcome and will continue to be desirable and necessary, but can not be relied on alone to maintain the continuity and level of effort needed for this project.
A formal non-profit corporation has now been established, which has benefits in being eligible to receive many more types of grants (including DOT Scenic Byways grants), in being able to receive tax-deductible contributions, and in having a formal accountable structure that is visible to its constituency. An independent organization, with its own bank account and staff, will be able to work more effectively across geographic lines and interest groups, will be more visible and more accountable, and potentially, much more effective.
The Alliance membership will include the contributing organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions that can be identified and who express interest in participating, as well as individual residents, landowners, business operators, users, and other stakeholders along the Byway. The membership group will function largely to gain input from the members as to the needs and desires of the stakeholders, success or problems of implementing the CMP, and to disseminate information on efforts and progress along the Byway. Full membership meetings once or twice a year can offer programs and reports on Byway efforts, and regular mailings or newsletters can keep members informed and in touch with activities. All participants in CMP projects will be included in this group.
This group is best structured on a membership basis so that members feel ownership in the organization. A nominal individual membership fee is recommended to encourage participation, with a somewhat higher business/organization rate. Donations at higher levels can be encouraged, as well as sponsorships or higher rates for promotion or other benefits. The basic membership fee should be adequate to cover administration of the member database and newsletters, while the donations and sponsorships can over time help to defray some of the organization’s costs.
Partner organizations will be members, but will in addition have a special role as active participants in some segment of the Byway. In most cases they will have specific interests in a site, type of resource, or business activity that is a subset of the Byway activities. By furthering their own interests and projects, sharing information about their efforts and coordinating with other Byway plans, and by cooperating and contributing directly to the Byway coordination and promotion efforts, they will be furthering their own goals as well as working together towards the Byway goals.
Overseeing the actual development of the Byway will be the responsibility of the Board of Directors. The membership on the Management Board should be representative of the variety of partners and the geographic extent of the Byway, but should also be composed of representatives who are willing to make the commitment to attend meetings and participate in the activities of the Byway. The primary staff people should be active participants with the Board of Directors.
A key to the success of a single organization for the entire Byway will be the operation of regional groups. Whether organized by county, or by a group of counties in proximity, these regional groups will provide the on-the-ground work and partnerships it will take to make this project work, and to build and keep local support. Representatives from the regional groups can then be sent to the Board of Directors to help coordinate efforts along the whole Byway.
The staff needed for the organization will include:
Some of these roles may be initially combined with others, or may be part-time positions depending on the funding available and the pace of progress on the projects, but the work outlined in this plan could easily support several full-time professional positions. Initially, such support will need to come from grant sources, and request for such funding is included in the CMP recommendations. This is a major benefit to seeking National Scenic Byway designation, since only National Byways are eligible for grant funding for staff. Ultimately, once the services and businesses have been developed and tourism revenue from the Byway is significant and has been demonstrated, then business and local governmental support for professional and staff services can be sought. Until such time as staff can be funded, consultants working on specific grant projects, staff of partner organizations, and volunteers will provide the team to begin implementing the Byway plan.
The participating groups that have so far shown the most willingness and organizational capability to actively contribute to the development of the Byway have been Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas County Tourism Commission, Pocahontas County Communications Cooperative, Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation, Historic Beverly Preservation, Randolph County Historical Society, Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendents, Upshur County Historical Society, Weston Historic Landmarks Commission, Gilmer County Historic Landmarks Commission, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, and Wood County Scenic Byways Coalition. A number of other partners have also contributed, but either have fewer resources available to offer, have focused on a specific project, or have enough higher priorities that their participation in this project to date has been limited. The Monongahela National Forest spans two counties, and they also manage many of the intrinsic resources in the eastern section of the Byway.
Increasing the degree of participation of key county agencies, such as Convention & Visitors Bureaus, County Development Authorities, and County Commissions, as well as closer cooperation with Chambers of Commerce and various tourism development efforts will greatly strengthen the Alliance.
Much of the initial focus of the SPTA was on the historic resources, but for the Byway it is important to include the natural, scenic, and outdoor recreation opportunities as well. Involvement of outdoor interest groups such as the Highland Trails Foundation and the Nature Conservancy can provide new opportunities and outlooks.
Continued strong participation and action by the partnership organizations will be essential for the success of the Byway. Partners will remain responsible for their specific projects, and for providing continued resources and participation. In addition, by keeping the partners actively involved, individual buy-in and sense of ownership is increased, which helps maintain participation, cooperation, and stewardship.
In all counties, building more grassroots awareness and support is essential, including contacts, involvement, and activities with existing community organizations including civic groups, schools, and churches, involvement with and support from local governments, and encouraging involvement in Byway projects and activities. This participation is not only important from an administrative viewpoint, but also in support of the stewardship goals. By developing broad-based grassroots community involvement, the Byway can increase its available resources and manpower, build citizen support, and contribute to community development, local pride, and enhanced quality of life. It is essential that the Byway serve the local citizens as well as the tourists, and developing broad-based participation and stewardship is the most important avenue toward this goal.
Coordination and sharing information such as scheduling and coordination of meetings; communications between partners and projects; dissemination of minutes, reports, and newsletters; carrying out and keeping track of progress of development projects; gathering input from and communicating progress to members and stakeholders; public relations, press contacts, and outreach to the public; answering inquiries from the public and potential tourists;
Financial and project accountability including coordination with DOT and other state agencies; grant administration and financial accounting for organization funds; coordinating information on financial activities of Byway partners;
Long-range marketing including development and implementation of an extensive professional marketing plan for promotion and marketing both in-state and out of state; tracking visitation, economic impact, evaluations, and results; and assisting the Board in seeking out funding sources for development and sustained operations of the entire Byway effort.
If funding for staff is inadequate for these tasks, then substantially more participation in administrative functions will be needed from the Board and from partner organizations to ensure that needed tasks can be completed.
Partner organizations will take responsibility for developing and carrying out specific projects listed in the action plan, with support and coordination between projects from the Byway organization. It will not be the responsibility of the SPTA Board or staff to carry out individual projects, except those that are separately and individually assigned there. Partners will also be essential in providing financial and manpower support and matching funds to make the Byway organization possible. In order for this partnership approach to function, it is essential that a number of partners be willing to make substantial contributions, and to continue to do so over time. The Byway organization is composed primarily of its partners, and the work will need to be shared by all.
The SPTA membership will provide the grassroots support for the Byway projects; information flow to the management about needs, problems, and successes; and a pool of potential donors, volunteers, and stewards of the Byway resources. All members will be encouraged to think of the Byway as their resource, and to participate in the projects in a variety of ways. The benefits of the Byway will accrue to all the members and the entire community, and their participation will bring the Byway vision to life.
The SPTA Byway staff and board will coordinate all financial administration for the Byway in a professional and accountable manner. Those grants, memberships, donations, and revenues that come directly to the Byway will be held and administered by the Byway organization. The individual partner responsible for each project funded through or by partner organizations will administer the grants for their own specific projects. All cooperating partners who are working on projects will send an annual (or more often) accounting of their income, expenses, progress, visitation tracking and evaluation for their Byway projects to the Byway organization, so that a combined accounting of Byway activity can be compiled and made available to the Byway partners.
Initial start-up funding may be available from grants, but for long-term sustainability the SPTA as the Byway coordinating organization will need dependable on-going sources of support. An inherent difficulty in the partnership approach is that to the extent that businesses and attractions are operated by partners rather than the Byway organization, those partners will be the ones receiving the revenues, even though those revenues are increased and in part derived because of the coordinating and marketing work of the Byway. This is compounded by many of the attractions being free to visitors, although they still are costly to maintain. Thus it will be necessary either to find ways to derive direct revenue from the Byway and its attractions to maintain the Byway services; or have the commitment from the revenue-generating partners that they are willing to support the Byway efforts that they are benefiting from.
Some of the types of potential funding are discussed here. Some are applicable for operations of the Byway organization, others for partners pursuing specific projects. Most are appropriate or targeted for only specific types of activities.
Scenic Byway grants are Federal transportation funds administered through the West Virginia Department of Transportation. They can offer significant targeted start-up funding for Byway CMP and implementation. The grants associated with the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway to date are:
Projects associated with a Scenic Byway may also be eligible for some other types of transportation funding.
State grants are available for specific types of projects, such as building preservation from the WV Historic Preservation Office; arts and performance grants from the Arts and Humanities Division; and advertising grants from Department of Tourism. Direct state appropriations or Fairs and Festivals funding can also be possibilities.
Many federal programs or grants can be applicable to different projects and some have already been used on the Turnpike, such as American Battlefield Protection Program – National Park Service funding for Civil War battlefields and USDA Forest Service cooperative projects. Further research on applicable grants for different types of projects is needed both on a state and federal level.
Foundations supportive of Civil War and historic preservation; tourism development; community economic development; and those who have specific interests in West Virginia are prime candidates for grant requests. Use of foundation grants to match other funding or encourage challenge donations can often be helpful.
Local revenues are often limited or already allocated to current organizations. Working along with established agencies and through existing channels is the best way to get the Byway locally involved and supported.
Support from businesses who benefit, directly or indirectly, from the Byway offers a good opportunity for long-term funding support. The obvious methods such as using co-operative advertising, and memberships, donations and sponsorships from Byway businesses will help provide some operating funds. Seeking out creative opportunities such as development of franchises, finding new capital investment, and other types of corporate involvement can assist the Byway in becoming self-sustaining for the long term.
Member donations and local organization support will be essential both as revenue and in maintaining member involvement. Careful fostering of large donors deserves attention, as well as well-planned fundraising activities. Care will need to be taken that the Byway organization not become a competitor to existing partner organizations who also look to local sources for fundraising. Cooperation, not competition, will be key.
Developing of earned income from Byway revenues will be a significant component in long-term sustainability. This can include sales of gift and interpretive items, admissions fees, events, and business receipts. Coordination with partner organizations to ensure that an appropriate share of Byway revenues goes toward Byway operations will be important.