“Heritage tourism” an economic boost for West Virginia


You’ve probably heard the phrase “Mountain State Heritage” before.

It’s well preserved across the state in museums, parks, and living history sites. It turns out our heritage is actually an important part of tourism and our economy. 

A recent study from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia takes a look at the AmeriCorps program, proving it plays an important part in the state’s economy. 

“A lot of times people come here and they didn’t know we were here before,” said Preserve WV AmeriCorps member Kara Gordon. “They didn’t know there was all this history in their area.” 

Every part of West Virginia has a history, preserved in sites across the state. It’s seen in sites that we and other visitors travel to often. 

Those visits are part of what is called “heritage tourism” 

“In the summer we are having groups pretty much every day come for tours,” Gordon continued. “People coming for school reunions and things like that then they’ll stop here. You also get a lot of people who grew up here and have moved away and then they come back to visit and they want something to do ,and so they come to sites like this.” 

The study worked with the following Preserve WV AmeriCorps host organizations during June and July of 2018: 

  • Cockayne Farmstead – Glen Dale, Marshall County 
  • Carnegie Hall – Lewisburg, Greenbrier County
  • Pricketts Fort – Marion County
  • Jackson’s Mill – Lewis County
  • The Waldomore – Clarksburg, Harrison County 

Here’s what the study found. 

More than half, about 52%, of visitors to the site traveled more than 50 miles to get there. About 31% came from 200 or more miles away. 

Each visit to a Preserve WV AmeriCorps site generated nearly one night’s hotel stay and an average of about $271 dollars for the local economy. 

All of that shows “heritage tourism” is an economic engine for the Mountain State. 

To get these numbers, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia asked 217 visitors to these sites to complete a survey. Of those visitors, there was a 59% response rate. 

“There’s no Grand Canyon to come see in Marshall County, or anything like that, so these historic sites, it’s a great thing for people to come see,” Gordon said. 

There may not be a Grand Canyon, but there is the Cockayne Farmstead, one of the more than 20 sites across West Virginia benefiting from Preserve WV AmeriCorps Members. 

These historic destinations aren’t just boosting the economy. The study also found they contribute to the quality of life in cities and towns. 

“There’s not a lot of the ability to hire a lot of staff, so I think Americorps really helps in that way,” Gordon explained. “That they can have someone working here. Someone with some training in history working and building the site up that they might not otherwise have been able to have.” 

“We have probably 20,000 pages of ephemera and we have over 3,000 19th century artifacts and so the preservation, they’re not all in the best of shape, so the preservation of those artifacts and that ephemera is essential and we need somebody who knows how to do it,” added Nila Chaddock, Chairman of the Cockayne Preservation Committee, which is a committee of the Marshall County Historical Society. 

Preserve WV Americorps Members spend one-year terms at historical organizations. Their goals are to really build the volunteer base and draw the community to the site. 

That component was also part of the study, which said people enjoy and learn from their visits to these historic host organizations thanks to the work of these members. 

Most visitors who responded to the survey said they wanted to check out the site because they have an interest in history. Others also said it was a way to have fun and pass time with family and friends.  Some also came to increase their knowledge. 

Almost all visitors, 97%, said the visit met their expectations. 

If you’d like to learn more about the work of Preserve WV AmeriCorps members, or read the full study, visit www.PAWV.org/AmeriCorps

For more information about visiting the Cockayne Farmstead, click here

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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