January 2016 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

By Cindy Karelis
AFHA AmeriCorps members will join other volunteers across West Virginia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for a day of service to benefit our communities.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will be marked across the nation on Monday as volunteers add action to Dr. King’s belief that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” Locally, AFHA members will participate throughout the AFHA region in book drives, food service, trash pickup, a teddy bear craft with school children, and both a Valentine card drive and paint therapy initiative at local nursing homes.

Volunteer West Virginia, the State’s Commission for National and Community Service, fosters the call to service through its AmeriCorps outreach by sponsoring and conducting training through annual conferences and workshops. According to newly-named Executive Director Heather Foster, more than 270 AmeriCorps members, including those from the AFHA team, will coordinate service projects this year alongside hundreds of community volunteers during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

Oral Histories Pivotal in Conserving Arthurdale's Heritage

By Vanessa Mulé
AFHA AmeriCorps Heritage Team Member

Arthurdale, 1/13/2016. Photo by Vanessa Mulé

Everything is starting to wind down for winter in Arthurdale, West Virginia. Up until this week, we’ve certainly had a mild fall and winter, which meant that we saw more visitors than usual!

I have had ample time in the four months since my service began to learn some of the history of the families that have lived here. I find it remarkable how many stories we are able to tell during our guided tours, be it stories about Eleanor Roosevelt in Arthurdale or the day-to-day activities or chores of homesteaders. I understand why this little museum leaves such an impact on visitors: these kinds of stories are just unheard of these days, to have a President give a commencement speech at your high school graduation or to have the First Lady nonchalantly having meals with your mother or aunt.

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Arthurdale 4-H club.

Our philosophy when giving tours is to focus on the stories. A majority of tourists are not necessarily looking for specific dates. They are mostly looking for memorable and distinct anecdotes that can help explain how Arthurdale came to be and what a homestead family did when they lived here. I love getting people laughing and wide-eyed when I tell these stories - it makes it all the more unforgettable. For example, I can share that President Roosevelt remarked that a boy’s ginormous prize cow looked more like a “West Virginia moose” than a cow.

For these reasons, I will continue to gather stories from descendants of homesteaders and others that grew up in the area. Focusing on oral histories as my major project not only facilitates giving tours, but is vital in order to keep to our AFHA goal to preserve the important community heritage of our sites. Last summer, the last original homesteader passed away at the age of 102. There are no more stories to be told from that first Arthurdale generation, but it does not mean we should stop seeking stories about Arthurdale.

Eleanor Roosevelt receiving shirts at the shirt factory in Arthurdale. Photo from the Estate of Bayard Young.

Restoration – An Integrative Approach

By Kristin Stockton
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Team Member

Serving with the Forest Service, the word ‘restoration’ gets tossed around a lot, and it can be a very loaded and controversial term. The general definition as it applies to conservation and natural resources management is to return an ecosystem or resource to a particular historical or natural state, which is where things immediately become complicated. Nature isn’t fixed, nor is time. How do you choose what point to restore to, and how do you know that your target state is still sustainable in a changed world? This discussion can get both intensely convoluted and philosophical.

Volunteers plant red spruce on a decommissioned road in the Monongahela National Forest. Photo by Mike Anderson.

An example of this would be an ecosystem that isn’t functioning the way that it once did. Perhaps some element has been removed or added. You look at historical records and see that a forest used to have more of a certain species and that the species began to decline following European settlement. Maybe a certain animal distributed the seeds of that plant, but the animal was overhunted. That’s an easy solution, right? You reintroduce the animal, and the forest works again. Problem solved! Except, then you realize that the animal actually depended on openings created by Native Americans for forage and that its decline was a combination of habitat loss and the introduction of an invasive species. Now, you have at least two more problems, and the famous John Muir quote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," is feeling pretty relevant.

The point that I’m trying to make is that restoration is complicated and more frequently than not, you find that more than one approach is needed. Nature is dynamic and significant changes echo through the ecosystem for years to come. Fortunately, that ripple effect can work both ways and enhancing one asset can have resounding effects across the entire ecosystem. 

Part of my position is working with the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI), a partnership that seeks to restore the high elevation red spruce ecosystem to its historic range, pre-1800’s-1900’s logging boom. CASRI is fortunate to have a diverse array of dedicated partners, and through my affiliation with them I’ve seen some amazing examples of successful large scale restoration efforts and the intense amount of work involved. Deep-ripping compacted soil, planting trees, adding wood to streams, stabilizing eroding banks, decommissioning roads, eradicating invasive species – these are only a few of the projects connected to red spruce and high elevation ecosystem restoration. It’s a lot of work, but extensive degradation calls for extensive restoration, and the interconnected nature of an ecosystem requires an equally integrated approach. This impressive collaborative effort will ideally lead to a healthier and more resilient ecosystem that will once again be able to function at its historic capacity. With the return of the red spruce comes healthier streams, better carbon storage, and increased habitat, which sounds worthwhile to me.

Oral History Workshop
AFHA will host an oral history and ethnography training workshop on February 24th, 2016 at the Darden Mill in Elkins, led by West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard.

The workshop will be free and open to the public. Watch your inbox and our facebook page for more information and how you can RSVP.   
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.
Bell Knob Fire Tower, in Grant County, is among the few remaining fire towers in the Monongahela National Forest. This tower was put in place in 1943, when the former Dolly Sods tower was moved to this location. Although still standing, the tower is now out of use and in rough shape. The lookout’s cab collapsed during a 2010 snowstorm. Fire towers were an important part of early forest management, eventually going almost entirely out of use due to new fire detection strategies and technologies.
Blue Sulphur Springs Resort, in Greenbrier County, was built in 1832. All that remains today is the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavillion, a Greek Revival structure built directly over the spring itself, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. During the mid-19th century, Blue Sulphur Springs Resort was a quite fashionable destination for both domestic and international travelers, with such guests as Robert E. Lee, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Henry Clay, and Jerome Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) all paying visits. The accompanying hotel and other buildings, aside from the pavilion itself, were destroyed during the Civil War. More recently, the Pavilion has been given to the Greenbrier Historical Society to help protect it as it continues to age.
The Quilt Trail of Pocahontas County is a collection of barn quilts,--extra large, painted quilt squares hung on barns or other buildings--spread throughout Pocahontas county. The Quilt Trail of Pocahontas County consists of 19 barn quilts officially recognized by the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Community members and tourists are encouraged to explore Pocahontas County by visiting the various barn quilts.
Mount Porte Crayon Preserve, in Pendleton County, is a remote and largely inaccessible 99 acre tract of land managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is open to experienced hikers willing to bushwhack as there are no developed trails or roads. It is home to a red spruce-northern hardwood forest, consisting largely of an overstory of red spruce and understory of highbush cranberry, and the summit of Mount Porte Crayon is the sixth highest point in West Virginia.
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