February 2016 

AFHA Recruiting at ServeConWV

AFHA will be attending the ServeConWV recruitment event on Tuesday, February 23rd, at Wheeling Jesuit University.  ServeCon is a gathering of service-year sponsors, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and more, who are ready to network and recruit students for high impact community-based service-year positions.
The AFHA AmeriCorps teams work with partner organizations to conserve forests and communities. AmeriCorps members help enhance assets to benefit communities by providing community service on conservation, community development, heritage tourism, and historic preservation projects. AFHA is opening recruitment for the 2016-17 year.  For more information check out our Facebook page, and our website

Monongahela National Forest Heritage Program

By Anne Hartman
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Member

Anne Hartman doing inventory in the collections room. Photo by Gavin Hale. 

As the snow falls this February, I am well into my year serving at the Heritage Program at the Monongahela National Forest. The Heritage Program oversees archaeology and historic preservation on over 921,000 acres of public forest land.

When I tell people about my time here, the first question I get asked is “what are you digging up?” I usually smile and say that while we do come across fascinating evidence of past people’s lives, most of our work involves protecting this unique non-renewable resource. Ironically, excavating a site also destroys it! So, while we do get our hands dirty, current practice highlights conservation, which often means leaving things in place. So much in archaeology is about context: while projectile points (“arrowheads”) found on the surface of the ground may be evidence of ancient people’s craftsmanship, most information comes from methodical excavation of undisturbed sites, and in looking for patterns in the region as a whole.

Anytime the ground surface might be disturbed on the Monongahela – say for a new trail, campsite, timber sale, or proposed pipeline - the area must be surveyed for evidence of human presence. During the warm months, we trek along roads and rivers and trails. We search out, monitor, and work to protect sites, and decide which historic structures are salvageable and which will be left to return to the elements. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Although many West Virginians have heard that this region was never home to settlements before the arrival of Europeans, that is not borne out by the evidence that is all around us if we know where to look - or perhaps more importantly, whom to ask. Native American communities were collectively pushed out of this region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and that is why no federally-recognized tribes are based in what is now West Virginia. However, today there is a renewed relationship between these tribes and the government, as represented by federal agencies like the Forest Service. To date, fourteen tribes have expressed an interest in the Monongahela as part of their ancestral territory, and they are actively consulted on matters relating to heritage work.

When looking at an artifact, I never get over the idea that the last person who touched it might have lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. That sense of connection drives home the immense responsibility we have to be good stewards for the future, and I feel privileged to be part of the process.

Just a Small Town Boy, Not Livin' in a Lonely World 

By Alex Thomas
AFHA AmeriCorps Community Development Member

We all live within our communities, but how many of us are actually part of those communities? It is a distinction I was not fully aware of before I began my year of AmeriCorps serving with the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in the small town of Philippi, West Virginia.

Alex Thomas at Philippi

I split my service hours between two organizations: Woodlands Development Group and the Barbour County Development Authority. In order for me to effectively do my job with both groups it has been necessary for me to “schmooze” (as I call it) with the many leaders and groups operating in Philippi. This has included regularly attending and participating in City Council, Lion’s Club, and Barbour County Chamber of Commerce meetings. The fruit of attending these meetings has been both an increased knowledge of Philippi politics, and also the development of several personal relationships with leading Philippians - both valuable assets for Woodlands as they attempt to expand their operations into the formerly untested waters of Northern Barbour County.  From a personal professional development standpoint the experience of building these relationships and the realization of how important they can be to the fulfillment of my goals has been invaluable. You come to realize that nothing is ever achieved without help. Although the construction of a professional network has been achieved on a relatively small scale, the method of doing so through community engagement is one which, I believe, can be successfully replicated anywhere in the world and in any profession.           

But if I may examine my experience in Philippi through a personal lens, and not one of stilted phrases like “personal professional development,” I see it as equally influential. I grew up in a similarly small town in East Tennessee called Maryville, yet I can count on one hand the number of times I was hailed on the street by a smiling familiar face. I couldn’t have told you who our mayor was, or what service clubs were operating in town. I didn’t even know that small towns had their own Chambers of Commerce, much less what a Chamber of Commerce was! I was living within a community without actually being part of it. But when I stand on Main Street in Philippi, I can count on someone pulling over to say hello or to ask how my AmeriCorps project is going. City politics are no longer a mystery to me, and although as an AmeriCorps volunteer I have no official political opinion, simply being aware of the contours of debate has given me a much deeper appreciation for little services I enjoy- such as a freshly plowed road. The fact is that when I reached out and engaged with my community, it reciprocated the sentiment and embraced me back. Thanks to AFHA and the opportunity they gave me, for the first time in my life I am part of a town, not just living in one.

Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.

The Kindness Demonstration Area is a 300 acre portion of Garrett State Park in Garrett County, Maryland devoted to teaching visitors about modern forestry techniques. It consists of a 1 ½ mile trail with interpretive signs explaining forest and wildlife management practices. The Kindness Demonstration Area is part of the original 2,000 acre donation of land from the Garrett Brothers in 1906 that led to the establishment of Garrett State Park, which now covers over 7,000 acres.

Cottrill’s Opera House in downtown Thomas (Tucker Co) was built in 1902. Originally it served as a venue for many kinds of live entertainment, including vaudeville and minstrel shows, concerts and stage plays. Eventually, with the advent of the silent movie, live entertainment was replaced by film, and the venue operated as a cinema until the mid-1970s. Cottrill’s Opera House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and has been undergoing restoration by Alpine Heritage Preservation for the past several years, in addition to service provided by AFHA AmeriCorps members to return the Opera House to its role as a center of cultural activity for Tucker County.  
The Mountain Music Trail is the result of collaboration between many organizations, music venues, and musicians along the Highway 219 corridor in Monroe, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Randolph and Tucker counties. The vision of the project is “to promote, present, and sustain opportunities for engagement in the authentic mountain music traditions of West Virginia." Concerts at the venues along the Mountain Music Trail are listed on the website.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is a rail trail that runs from Cumberland, MD (Allegany County), to Pittsburgh, PA. In Cumberland, the GAP connects with the C&O  Canal Towpath, creating a 335 mile trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. As a rail trail, the Great Allegheny Passage is built mostly on abandoned railroad grades of the Western Maryland Railway and the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, and is open for public use by hikers and bicyclists. 
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: info@appalachianforest.us and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241