On January 9, the room was packed to meet and discuss the concept of a National Heritage Area as it relates to the Appalachian region. The venue was provided by Craig Botetourt Electric Cooperative and the food was provided by Bibo’s Pizzaria in New Castle.
The presentation for the evening was by Andrew Downs, regional director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Downs, who has a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management, spoke on the subject of National Heritage Areas, generating a productive discussion from the various regional participants on how to preserve a large region radiating from Peters Mountain and the Appalachian Trail along the Virginia/West Virginia border.
There were 17 local citizens and over two dozen individuals from surrounding areas. Local groups represented included Preserve Craig, Craig County Historical Society, Craig County Board of Supervisors, Tourism Committee, New Castle Garden Club and Back Country Horsemen of America. Regional groups participating included Preserve Giles, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Preserve Monroe, Preserve Montgomery, Save Monroe and Protect Our Water Heritage and Rights (POWHR).
Ashby Berkley from Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation participated and thanked Paula and Herb Mann of Mountain Media Productions for videotaping the meeting.
Laura Mack from Appalachian Voices Magazine, Jessica Sims from Sierra Club of Virginia, and Matthew Wilkin, film producer were in attendance. Some guests had attended multiple community input meetings on the subject of National and Cultural Heritage. Kelsey Wright, a graduate student from College of William and Mary attended, as well as Anita Puckett from the Appalachian Studies department at Virginia Tech.
With so many committed leaders in the room, one could not help but be proud of New Castle for being the centerpiece of such an important discussion.
Cultural attachment is strong in this wide area. Preservation of the heritage, the historical value and the natural resources found in Appalachia, regardless of arbitrary boundaries is something everyone can agree on. People who grew up in other places go back home and find it unrecognizable due to unconstrained development, whereas people from this area can still find the homeplaces and forests from their youth thriving.
Preserve Craig will continue to protect the natural, historical and cultural resources of Craig County Virginia. It represents the voices of our ancestors, those who live today, and those who will live tomorrow in the hope that the cultural heritage will remain in this place we call home.
- Submitted by Dr. Marge Lewter