September 2016

Welcome 2016-17 AFHA AmeriCorps members!

At the beginning of September, we welcomed our new AmeriCorps members to the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area. We are looking forward to keeping you updated on changes, projects, volunteer opportunities, and events in the region as our members embark on their year of service!

Finding Art in the Hills of West Virginia

By Dominic Piacentini
AFHA AmeriCorps Member
Dumpster in Elkins

One of my major projects this year with the Mountain Arts District and the Tucker County Cultural District Authority was to survey public art around the region, discover whatever information I could about the art, and exhibit it all online. This project took me from Watoga State Park in Pocahontas County for a statue of a C.C.C. worker to the Veterans’ Park in Philippi for a pavilion mural dedicated to Barbour County’s Vietnam War veterans.

This project, in many ways, served as my indoctrination to West Virginia culture, history, and art. I would plan routes into different new towns and cities with some more well-known pieces in mind (The Buckhannon Seal Mural or Henry G. Davis Statue for example). Meandering around this region’s towns, I discovered part of what makes them each unique, as it’s represented in their art. In Tucker County, you’ll find art of Blackwater Falls, skiers, and the outdoors, celebrating its nature and recreation opportunities; whereas, in Barbour County you’ll find art honoring veterans for their service and acknowledging the historical importance of the area. All the while, I’d discover art that was completely unexpected. A massive, multi-colored rooster watches over Buckhannon like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg and the brightly painted dumpsters add a splash of color to the streets and parking lots of Elkins.


I photographed everything I found, and followed up with the sites and organizations behind the art installations to gather interpretive cultural and historical information, asking questions such as “Why has Minnehaha so commonly been referred to as Hiawatha?” and “Why is there a large chicken overlooking the city of Buckhannon?” The answers were enlightening. 

I then took the pictures and information I had gathered and presented them in an online gallery, which will be published this month. The gallery will continue to change as installations of public art come and go, or as we discover older pieces. My favorite pieces of public art I discovered this year are a newspaper sculpture celebrating Earth Day as it purposefully biodegrades back into the earth and “Over Bonnie,” an incredibly detailed mural in Marlinton celebrating its history through local authors. Check both of them out and the entire gallery at

Art Brightens Downtown Elkins

By JoLynn Powers
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

Elkins Main Street, Generation Randolph members, City employees, AFHA AmeriCorps Members, Mountain Arts District members and students from the Youth Build Program have been working over the summer to create a Heritage Quilt Trail. A set of four, 8’X8’ foot wooden panels with painted traditional Appalachian quilt patterns in bright colors are being produced. The panels will be displayed on buildings to brighten downtown Elkins. 

The nearly finished Log Cabin Quilt Block Panel. 

The idea for the project came from the owner of Elkins Sewing Center, Sue Pifer, and the owner of Serendipity, Sherry Hammer.  Both suggested that Elkins Main Street could make and sell the patterns for building owners in downtown Elkins. Pifer had seen the Pocahontas County Quilt Trail and thought that with a little tweaking, the idea would work in Elkins, drawing more people downtown.

The four panels have been created with the support of community groups who want to see a more beautiful downtown. Working on this project has brought people together in unexpected ways. We have members of Generation Randolph volunteering next to retirees and AmeriCorps members. The Youth Build Program of Randolph County donated their team to assemble the panels and help with priming and paint. AFHA AmeriCorps members took on the challenge of transferring the designs onto the wooden panels.  All told, we had over 25 volunteers working over three months to complete the project. Working on the panels is a source of pride for those volunteering their time and everybody is excited to see them displayed downtown. 

Volunteering together on The Maple Leaf panel, AFHA AmeriCorps members with members of Mountain Arts District. Photo left to right: Taylor Adams, Dominic Piacentini, Frank Cuda, Jane Birdsong

The first quilt block should be installed on the Randolph County YMCA by the end of August. The other panels are still being put together. Elkins Main Street is hoping that other building owners will support the project by either purchasing a panel or sponsoring one for display on a downtown building. Once the trail is finished, a map/ informational pamphlet will be created by Elkins Main Street to share the locations of each quilt square on our Heritage Quilt Trail. 

The hope is that this project continues to grow over the next two years and bring people of our community together with a common goal of making Elkins a more beautiful, welcoming place to live and visit.

AFHA AmeriCorps members working on quilt blocks. Left to right: Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini,  JoLynn Powers, Katie Sammons.

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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.

A portion of the land that is now called Garrett State Forest, in Garret County, MD, was donated to Maryland in 1906 by John and Robert Garrett on the condition that the state start a forestry service. Originally called Swallow Falls State Forest, the initial donation of 1,917 acres has expanded to nearly 7,000 acres that includes cranberry bogs, beaver dams, and a 40 acre stand of old growth white pine and hemlock. Both Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Parks are located within the Forest. A number of CCC work projects were built here, including a dam and lake, cabins and a pavilion.

The Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association is a non-profit organization based in Cass, Pocahontas County. Since 1983, the organization is dedicated to the research, collection, preservation, publication on, and restoration of equipment and structures related to West Virginia lumbering and railroad operations.
The Preston County Buckwheat Festival, in its 75th year, will be held September 19th-October 2nd, 2016, in Kingwood, West Virginia. The Festival has Great Depression roots: Preston County farmers grew buckwheat because of its short growing season and good quality; it was seen as a safe crop in poor economic times. For this reason, buckwheat was chosen as the namesake for an end-of-harvest festival--the Preston County Buckwheat Festival.
Upper Shavers Fork Preserve, in Randolph County, is managed by The Nature Conservancy. Although there are several established trails, visitation at the reserve is by appointment only. The preserve is located on the banks of the Shavers Fork, which is one of the highest quality streams in West Virginia, and supports a diversity of wildlife. Along certain stretches of the Shavers Fork, it is considered the highest elevation river in the eastern United States. 
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241