July 2016 
AFHA National Heritage Area Bill Introduced

Senators Manchin, Mikulski, Cardin, and Capito introduced the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area Act of 2016, on Tuesday, July 13. The legislation would designate the 18 county Appalachian Forest Heritage Area as a National Heritage Area, recognizing it as nationally significant, and providing eligibility for technical assistance and funding through the National Park Service. With HR 693 already introduced in the House, this marks the first time we've had active AFNHA legislation in both Houses of Congress! The full press release and more information can be found here.

AFHA Receives Flex-E-Grant

AFHA was awarded a Flex-E-Grant to support tourism planning and capacity building through development of on-line thematic tourism trails. The grant project will help us move forward with thematic planning, identifying sites, and developing compelling thematic products through our webpage to attract tourists to our region. Jessica Brewer, GIS Specialist with Region VII Planning and Development Council has been selected as consultant to assist with the project. Any AFHA stakeholders who wish to help, either with thematic planning, or with providing information about a site to include, are encouraged to contact us at info@appalachianforest.us

The Rich History of a Small West Virginia Town

By Kelsey Donnelly
AFHA AmeriCorps Heritage Member

It always amazes me how much history a small town can have. Yet, as I write this, I realize that this isn’t really fair to say. Of course all towns have some history. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think sometimes the history of small towns is overlooked in favor of larger cities that may have more influential histories, like Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington DC.

Throughout this last year, I’ve had the chance to delve into the history of the small town I’m serving in, Aurora, WV. During the Great Depression, an informal artists’ colony, dubbed the Youghiogheny Forest Colony, emerged in the small, Preston County community. The colony was primarily comprised of a group of architects from Washington DC. Frank Reeves, a local geologist, invited the Washingtonians to wait out the depression in Aurora as it was cheaper to live in rural West Virginia than it was in Washington DC. The Youghiogheny artists established their own community by constructing Bauhaus style cabins in which to live, by cultivating their own gardens, and by creating art. The talents assembled at Youghiogheny varied from painters and writers, to musicians and photographers. Volkmar Wentzel, a prominent member of the Youghiogheny community, insisted that though everyone was imaginative, their artistic interests were always secondary. However, the artistic reputation established by the Youghiogheny Forest Colony continues to impact the small town today.

From its inception, my site, the Aurora Project, Inc., has been heavily influenced by the Youghiogheny Forest Colony and its artistic legacy. I’ve had the privilege to assist the Aurora Project in its endeavor to Keep the Arts Alive in Appalachia by planning and implementing different art workshops and programs for the local community to enjoy. So far this year, we’ve hosted an Alternative Photography Workshop and a Basic Printmaking Workshop. Both workshops were well attended, and participants really enjoyed exploring new art forms and creative processes. I’m looking forward to the other programs we have scheduled for this summer, including a visit from West Virginia’s Poet Laureate, Marc Harshman, on July 23rd, a three-part Basic Pottery Workshop on July 30th, 31st and August 6th, and an Advanced Printmaking Workshop on September 10th.

While researching the Youghiogheny Forest Colony, I had the chance to talk to Linda Reeves, granddaughter to Frank and Lottie Reeves, who originally invited the Washingtonians to Aurora. Ms. Reeves believes that the Youghiogheny Forest Colony was very much a “vital community […] for a while in the middle of this […] rural countryside." I may be biased, but I believe that the Aurora Project today remains that vital addition to the Aurora community because it continues to encourage local involvement in the arts.

Educating the Public on an Internationally-Famous American

By Alice Theibault
AFHA AmeriCorps Conservation Member

If I could name one highlight of the summer season so far, it’s probably the presentation on Smokey Bear that I delivered at Lake Sherwood the weekend of July 4th. Smokey Bear is recognized all over the world, but the number of people who truly understand where he came from and how he came to be is relatively small. In this presentation, I talked about the history of Smokey Bear and fire prevention in America, as well as modern fire safety and firefighting practices. Smokey Bear also made an appearance, of course.

To provide a background, I first talked a little bit about fire prevention in general, and how America’s fire prevention program began. I used the example of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to illustrate why we have a fire prevention program. I then described how World War II created the impetus for a wildland fire prevention program, largely to allow the country to better protect its timber reserves. However, the need to prevent forest fires didn’t end with the war, and thus, Smokey Bear was developed to provide a face for the fire-prevention message.

After explaining the background of fire prevention, I then told the story of the real-life Smokey Bear. I invited numerous audience members onto the stage to play the various characters who appeared in the story, and awarded them prizes for being so brave. The children seemed to have a really good time acting out the different parts, and each got to take home a water bottle or bandanna with a Smokey motif.

Following the story of Smokey Bear, I organized a trivia game, which covered a variety of fire-prevention and firefighting topics. Questions ranged in difficulty and included “What are the three types of wood used to make a campfire?” and “What are the most common types of tools used by wildland firefighters?” The audience members received prizes for correct answers, and at the end of the game I gave each one a “Leave No Trace” card detailing ways of preventing fires. We hadn’t been playing the game for very long before Smokey Bear appeared. Tiffany and Meghan, who work at the Lake Sherwood gatehouse, graciously volunteered to play Smokey at the end of the presentation.

All in all, I believe my presentation was a great success. I was proud of being able to make the July 4th weekend just a little more special for the guests at Lake Sherwood, and teach them a bit about this very special piece of American history.

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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.

Rothkugel Plantation, in Pocahontas County, represents one of the earliest instances of modern forestry in West Virginia. In 1907, Austrian-born forester Max Rothkugel seeded an experimental plantation on cut-over land on the site. He planted Norway spruce, European larch, and black locust. Today, despite successive fires, many of Rothkugel's trees survive and are over 100 years old. The plantation is marked by an interpretive sign at the hiking trail entrance, just outside of Bartow along WV 28. 

Capon Springs Resort, in Hampshire County, is a historic hotel and resort built up around the naturally present mineral springs. The Springs were discovered by settlers as early as the 1760’s. By 1850 the first hotel had been built here, which burned down in 1911.  Soon after, the present hotel structure was built. The resort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 as a historic district, and includes a variety of historic structures, including the Main House, the pavilions and President' s Cottage, Fairfax Cottage, Hampshire Cottage, a Recreation Center, and a Spring House. 
The State Fair of West Virginia is held every August in Lewisburg, Greenbrier County. The State Fair, which was first held in Wheeling in 1881, features a traveling carnival with rides, competitive exhibitions by 4-H and FFA members, harness racing, exhibitions by manufacturers of farm machinery and industrial tools, and a nightly concert performed by various popular musicians. In 2016, the fair runs from August 12th-21st.
The Cranberry Wilderness Area is a 47,815 acre area within the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas and Webster Counties. As part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the area has been set aside to preserve the primitive nature of the land. The area includes the entire drainage of the Middle Fork of the Williams and the North Fork of the Cranberry Rivers, and elevations within the Wilderness Area range from 2,400 to over 4,600 feet. 
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