Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 1
Pieces of our puzzle: Downtowns Country roads Vistas
Home fields Horizons
Photo by Donald Davis
Room with a view... Donald Davis, left, and Kenneth Gray, right, explored Bluefield’s Beacon Cave in the late 1950s. The photograph above shows one of the large rooms they came upon during their journey into the Bluefield underground. Davis photographed this area while Gray assisted with placement and know-how of working with flash photography in total darkness.
Beautiful and mysterious Water runs through caves in Four Seasons Country By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph LUEFIELD — Water in the two Bluefields is a mysterious attractions. Most locals know that there are several major springs on East River Mountain that bring water into the city, but streams seem to appear and disappear almost in the blink of an eye. Although its on the western fringe of the Appalachian
Mountain Range’s Valley and Ridge section, the region is well known locally for its karst topography. The term “karst” comes from the Kras region of eastern Italy and western Slovenia. In a karst area, underground water can carve impressive channels through the mostly limestone/calcium carbonate rocks and leave massive underground rooms that are more commonly called caves. The limestone/calcium car-
bonate rocks of the regional karst area date from 5.3-2.6 million years ago. Most local builders are well aware of the potential for sinkholes in the region. Some years ago, a classroom at Graham High School was closed when a sink hole developed. The Appalachian region has a great many karst cave systems including the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky that is more than 350 miles long. Professor
William B. White of the Geosciences department of Pennsylvania State University noted: “Taken as a whole, the Appalachians are one of the world’s great karst areas.” In 1957, Kenneth Gray, an inventive student at Bluefield College, started cataloguing the various cave entrances in the Bluefield area, explored them and followed the streams that weave in and out of the surface. He grew up on Cumberland Road in a home
across from Bluefield High School. “I found 26 caves on Cumberland Road,” he said. “There were a lot of them.” Then as now, the best known of the local caves is the Beacon Cave, so named because it’s easiest access point was located near the Beacon Drive-in, a popular youth gathering place located near the present sit of Bluefield Intermediate School. However, there are several access points to the
Beacon Cave in that general vicinity. “The big one starts where Cole Chevrolet is now,” Gray said. Gray loves to talk about the complex cave systems beneath Bluefield, but he remains hesitant to be too specific. “That stuff was there for millions of years,” he said. “We didn’t want kids getting in there and destroying it. They had to close that
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Caves... Continued from 1 entrance where Cole Chevrolet is because people came up there and dumped their household wastes in there.” During his explorations, Gray found many beautiful things including a lake and a 30-foot waterfall. “The first time I went into the lake, I rode across it in an inner tube,” Gray said. “There’s a big room in the cave that is about 40 feet high, and that beautiful waterfall that drops 30 feet. There are stalactites and stalagmites in there.” Both stalactites and stalagmites develop in limestone caves. The stalactite is above and hangs from the ceiling like an icicle while a stalagmite builds from the floor upwards. If they meet and connect, they are called a column, according to Jim Loy’s post on the Internet. Stalactites and stalagmites grow in pairs when slightly acidic water dissolves limestone and drops downward. Some water can evaporate on its way to the floor, and the remaining limestone forms the stalagmite. Gray worked with the Virginia Tech Cave Club to map two and one-half miles of the Beacon Cave that emerges at Leatherwood Farms and flows into the Bluestone River. Since he has a comprehensive understanding of all of the caves in the area, he has assisted in a few cave rescues when amateur spelunkers have become lost in the caves. As part of his exploration, he discovered large rooms separated by as much a 75 foot drop. In order to determine if two large rooms were connected, he placed a candle at the deepest point he reached, left the cave and re-entered from another
location. “Underground in a cave where there is no light, a candle burns really bright,” he said. “When we saw it, we knew the two caves were part of the same system.” Gray thinks the local caves could have had commercial potential, but residential, commercial and public construction in the area compromised some of the easiest access points. Some caves like Mammoth in Kentucky and Carslbad Caverns in New Mexico still draw tourists. However, nearby Organ Cave located on U.S. Route 219, in Greenbrier County, not far from Ronceverte, has been registered as a National Natural Landmark since 1973, but has had challenges in recent decades to keep tourists flowing in. Organ Cave is the third longest cave in the state and was mined for nitre during the American Civil War. “There was only one place in the Beacon Cave where it was real pretty, but it’s been destroyed,” Gray said. “It’s still an interesting cave.” Gray has also visited College Cave located on College Avenue near the Bluefield College campus as well as other caves in the region. He has also traced the flow of water as it goes under several city streets. He was only 19 years old when he started exploring the regional caves, but the underground world has always fascinated him. Gray worked for a time at Grubb Photo and delivered prescriptions for Goodykoontz Drug Store, but he spent 32 years designing underground mine machinery for Joy Manufacturing from 1966 to 1999. — Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com
Photo by Kenneth Gray
Water world... Kenneth Gray came upon this 30-foot waterfall on one of his explorations of Bluefield’s Beacon Cave in the late 1950s. The light on the back of the wall came from a flashlight. Since Gray made the photograph in total darkness, he used the flashlight beam to help him aim his camera.
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 3
Staff photo by Bill Archer
Treaty of Holston... The North Fork of the mighty Holston River has its origins with a pair of Tazewell County, Va., streams in the western section of the county. The statue shown above was negotiated on July 2, 1791, on the banks of the Tennessee River near it’s confluence with the Holston in what is now the city of Knoxville, Tenn. The treaty established that the Cherokee tribes were to fall under the protection of the United States.
From Tazewell to Tennessee: Water power changes the course of history By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph NOXVILLE, Tenn. — There is a statue on the banks of the Tennessee River in the heart of Knoxville that honors a pivotal moment in the history of the United States and the Cherokee people. The statue commemorates the July 2, 1791, signing of the Treaty of Holston, that was aimed at the civilization of the Cherokee people with the hope of assimilating them into the society of European colonists who had recently won independence from England. The Cherokee in the
Carolinas and Virginia entered the American Revolution as allies of the British, but were soundly defeated by the Colonial forces who destroyed several Cherokee villages in the process. That devastation made the promise of peace with the European settlers appealing. The Treaty of Holston established terms of how the Cherokee and the United States would interact, with hopes that Native peoples would no longer need a large amount of hunting lands, and would become farmers. While civilization and assimilation may have been the outward promise, land specula-
tors were eager to acquire land in the unsettled interior of the continental U.S., as an investment in the future. For years, the British crown had dictated policy related to growth of the North American interior, and the new federal government had less experience in dealing with speculators. The headwaters of the North Fork of the Holston River represents a pastoral setting for a mighty river that has played such a pivotal role in the nation’s history. Seeing Holstein cattle cooling their hooves in the river in Tazewell County, Va., seems far removed from the mighty Tennessee that it meets in the
Staff photo by Bill Archer
Power from water... When a group of scientists led by Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 expressing fears that the Germans would unlock the power of the atom bomb before the U.S., Roosevelt set a plan in motion that would result in the creation of the ‘Secret City,’ Oak Ridge, Tenn., on the banks of the Clinch River. Using power from dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Oak Ridge scientists collected uranium for the first atom bomb. The headwaters of the Clinch are in Tazewell County.
modern city of Knoxville, Tenn., site of the 1982 World’s Fair. In the same breath, the rural origins of the Clinch River at the Divides near Springville, Va., seems worlds apart from the city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., that would become a key component in the Allies battle against the
Axis Alliance. The federal government used the power available from existing Tennessee Valley Authority dams to transform the rural Tennessee countryside into a modern city of Oak Ridge where the so called “Secret City” helped gather the ingredients to develop the most power weapon in the history
of mankind — the atomic bomb. It was the power of the rivers that made it possible for the Oak Ridge scientists to harvest the power of the atom and to change the course of history. It’s a remarkable story. — Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Great underground river: 20th century man-made marvel By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph OISSEVAIN, Va. — In the fall of 1936, a group of about 200 coal miners received an unusual award from Pocahontas Fuel, Inc. Each of the miners received a medal in recognition of their efforts in the completion of one of the most challenging engineering feats ever tackled in North America. Because they worked in darkness hundreds of feet beneath the earth’s surface, few people except for the coal miners, their families and close friends know anything about their accomplishment. However, what they did during the height of the Great Depression had a direct impact on the course of world history through the balance of the 20th Century. This story is all about water. While water represents an essential life-giving force on earth, its presence in underground coal mines can represent an expensive obstacle in the mining process. Most underground mines are always damp, but mines beneath drainage can have a significantly adverse impact on the mining process. Not all of the rain that falls on earth gets channeled into streams for transportation to the seas of the world. A great deal of water finds its way underground where it weaves its way through layers of rock strata, collecting in pools, or joining with steams that often flow in limestone deposits to form great underground rivers. For centuries, rural
homeowners have drilled wells hundreds of feet underground to tap into pools of constantly replenished and purified water. Underground coal mining almost always takes place below drainage. While a cool, moist environment is a constant, mines driven against the natural flow of water underground can present special problems to coal miners and mine operators. Since water is not a commercial product of coal mining, it is considered an expense just like rock and other materials cleaned from coal in the preparation plant. Commercially viable largescale underground coal mining came into its own in southern West Virginia in the late 19th and early 20th century. Prior to that time, technological limits including ventilation and water control were prohibitive in terms of sinking deep shafts, and thus, sustaining mine workings on any given heading. The distance of transportation either underground or above ground, is a key factor in measuring expense in coal mining. By the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, mine engineers were well on the way to solving ventilation problems that had plagued the industry since its inception, bringing great loss of life to coal miners everywhere. However, moving increasingly large volumes of water proved an even greater challenge due to limitations on pumps as well as collection systems at the time. Several smaller companies
merged into the Pocahontas Fuel Company in 1907, and at the time, operated 11 underground coal mines on 22,000 acres of property located in McDowell, Wyoming and Mercer counties in West Virginia and Tazewell County, Virginia. The oldest of the company’s mines was located in Pocahontas, Virginia, and was opened in 1882. During the coming decades, Poca Fuel opened other operations in coal camps with strange sounding names like Anawalt, Jenkinjones, Amonate, Itmann, Sagamore, Lick Branch and Boissevain. By 1920, mine mechanization was revolutionizing the industry with the advent of machines like the Jones Coaloader developed circa 1915 by Pocahontas Fuel vice president James Elwood Jones and the O’Toole Mining Machine, developed circa 1919 by Colonel Edward O’Toole general superintendent of the U.S. Steel mines in Gary Hollow, McDowell County. Still, coal operators couldn’t reap the full benefit of their increased productivity with coal miners standing knee-deep in water all the time. Pocahontas Fuel had struggled with its drainage problem since 1907, and about a decade later, the company gathered some of the industry’s top mine engineers together to examine the problem. The cost associated with pumping water at the Boissevain Mine was almost equal to the cost of extracting coal. In 1915, the company
Making tracks... An unidentified coal miner is shown here in one of the tunnels of the 18.6 mile-long drainage system that drains more than 400 million tons of coal in the Pocahontas No. 3. seam. Work on the project started in the fall of 1931, and was completed in 1936.
A job well-done... Coal miners are shown here leaving the No. 35 Mine on Jacob’s Fork near Bishop, Va., in 1936 after finishing the last connection of the drainage project.
Staff photo by Bill Archer
And it comes out here... The 186 mile drainway empties into Dry Fork near Amonate from this exit point in a rural site in McDowell County.
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 5
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Diamonds in the hills... The historical marker in Peterstown marks the location where Grover C. ‘Punch’ Jones found an alluvial diamond weighing 34.48 carats. The discovery of the Jones Diamond and the Gillespie Diamond in Tazewell County, Va., prompted Dr. Ronald N. Bone to search for other alluvial diamonds in the vicinity of East River Mountain.
Are there diamonds in those hills? Retired professor believes precious gems are on East River Mountain By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph
one well-known area coal operator speculated that it could go all the way to the Mississippi River, but at a ETERSTOWN — Since depth that isn’t reasonable to it was coal — and more mine with existing methods. specifically the huge So where did the other half deposit of metallurgical coal of this huge bowl of coal go that is now called the before Dr. Thomas Walker and Pocahontas No. 3 Seam — his team of explorers identithat triggered the great coal fied it in 1750? rush of 1882, it’s The answer is significant to simple. It folDuring the note that long the path before pioneer past 131 years, lowed of least resistcoal barons like coal miners ance on its way Jenkin Jones, to the sea in the Isaiah Welch, have done a geological John Cooper and pretty good job process called, John J. Lincoln “transportation.” of mining the a rrived in the By definition, area, about half easy-to-get transportation is of the “original” reserves of the the movement of Pocahontas coal seam was Pocahontas No. material across the Earth’s suralready gone. 3 seam. face by water, The huge 11-12However, geol - wind, ice or foot thick coal gravity, accordseam exposed ogists really ing to a post on near the don’t know how “About.com, Pocahontas Geology.” Exhibition Mine far west the Transportation is the southPocahontas No. includes the western most 3 seam extends physical point of a bowlprocesses of like deposit of yet. A few traction (dragvegetation that years ago, one ging), suspenwas deposited sion (being carsome 360 million well-known ried), saltation years ago during area coal oper - (bouncing) as the ator speculated well as the Carboniferous hemical Period of the late that it could go cprocess of soluPaleozoic Era. all the way to tion or dissolvThe Pocahontas No. 3 seam coal the Mississippi ing in water. When water caris a product of River, but at a ries small porthe late depth that isn’t tions of rocks to Carboniferous the sea, the Period that is reasonable to process is called also referrer to mine with “washing,” and the Pennsylvanian existing meth - wind doing the same thing is Subsystem. ods. called, “w i n n o wDuring the past ing. 131 years, coal Transportation miners have done a pretty and weathering are the two good job of mining the easyphases of erosion. to-get reserves of the But why should the geologiPocahontas No. 3 seam. cal transportation of coal have However, geologists really any significance? Well, to a don’t know how far west the Bluefield native, Dr. Ronald N. Pocahontas No. 3 seam Bone, who took a shine to diaextends yet. A few years ago,
monds when he was reading a pamphlet on minerals of West Virginia. He was intrigued to l e a rn that a 12-year-old Monroe County boy, William P. “Punch” Jones, had discovered a bluish-white diamond weighing 34.48 carots while playing horseshoes with his father in April 1928. The Punch Jones Diamond was the largest alluvial diamond ever found in North America at the time. Bone read the geological pamphlet circa 1948, and pursued other interests until 1985 when he came across another alluvial diamond that had been found about 70-75 miles from Peterstown and 15 years earlier than the Jones Diamond. In 1913, J.S. “Straws” Gillespie was plowing a field at his farm about three miles from U.S. Route 460, on Pounding Mill Branch Road,” according to an article published in the November 1996 edition of “Virginia Minerals” titled “Diamonds in Virginia.” According to Bone, Straws Gillespie “noticed a sudden flash,” reached down and picked up a raw diamond. According to the article in “Virginia Minerals,” Gillespie kept the diamond in his pocket for a year, sold it to a Tazewell jeweler named H.W. Pobst, who had JR. Wood & Sons of New York cut the stone. Wood set the cut stone — now weighing .83 carat — and set it in a ring that the Gillespie family bought back from Pobst circa 1920. Palmer C. Sweet, author of the article, said that in 1995, the Gillespie diamond ring was still in the family. According to Bone, in 1999, he and his wife drove to the Bland County side of East River Mountain, sifted sand that they gathered from beneath a Tuscarora Sandstone ridge and found two diamonds. “Geologically speaking, diamonds are a special volcanic
event,” Bone, 75, wrote in a letter to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “They come (from more than) 120 miles deep and do not resemble common volcanic eruptions with different types of lava in great amounts. Typical volcanoes have shorter roots and are much hotter than diamond pipes.” He explained that diamonds come up from within the earth in a pipe with a matrix of iron and magnesium rocks called Kimberlite. “Today it is recognized as coming from a cratonic area, the oldest parts of a continent,” he wrote. “Other pieces of land were plastered around the cratons and were slightly younger. The sediments between cratons are fused together and called a
shield. Diamond pipes outside cratons in these areas are called Lamporite pipes.” A fter years of researching the formation of diamonds, Bone said that he is ready to make some reasoned assumptions. He stated that his article — of which some portions have been used here — that the top of East River and Peters mountains have the Lamporite pipes. “Several pipes may erupt in the surrounding area and only a few contain diamonds,” he wrote. “It is time to go far back in geological time,” he wrote. “The Silurian time begins around 438 million years ago. Under the Silurian period lies a long period called Ordovician. During this period, a big ice age began which
greatly lowered oceans and initiated a vast extinction of the small plant and animals present in the oceans. “At this time, a large land mass called Baltica was approaching eastern America undergoing subduction and eventually, Baltica rammed into the east coast,” he wrote. Subduction is a term that is used to explain the geological process of plate tectonics when one tectonic plate goes beneath another plate. In California, the Pacific plate is subducting beneath the North American plate. Bone wrote that extreme pressures caused the Taconic Mountains to rise up to 10,000 feet, with drainage heading westward.
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Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 7
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Relics... Joyce Buchanan, a Tazewell County educator, harvested the crinoid fossils in the West Graham Section of Bluefield, Va.
Prehistoric past Local teacher helps unlock region’s secrets By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph LUEFIELD — As a child, Joyce Buchanan enjoyed hearing the stories that her father told about building a road over the top of East River Mountain. “He could never understand why there were sand banks on the top of East River Mountain,” Buchanan said. “There are several sand banks on the mountain and others in the northern foothills. This area was very different millions of years ago, but the fossil evidence is all around.” Buchanan taught biology, chemistry and the earth sciences in Tazewell County Schools for 29 years, and after retiring nearly 20 years ago, she has pursued her passion for understanding the natural processes at work in the world around her. Along with the late Clyde Bowling, Buchanan worked hard to promote greater understanding of the various watersheds of Tazewell County, Va., as well as to defend and protect the rare aquatic life in the region’s streams including the Tennessee Heel Splitter Mussel and more. “The Clinch River has more different mussels than all of Europe,” Buchanan said. “More than any other stream around here.” Her studies in the earth sciences gave her an ability to detect subtle differences in the rock strata around her and to pick out fossils — some of which have proven to be rather rare finds that have shed new light on some of the geological processes at worked to shape the mountains of her community in the two Virginias. “You can come upon a lot of limestone with re-calcified fossils in them,” she said. “Some years ago, I was looking around on the ground at a spot in West Graham (Bluefield, Va.,) when I came upon fossils that I recognized as the stems of crinoids,” she said. “They’re small and round. Some people call them Indian beads because Native Americans used them to make necklaces out of. They’re still around today and they have been on earth since 300 to 400 million years ago.” Crinoids are marine animals that live in both shallow as well as ocean depths of 3 and one-half miles or more. Often called “sea lillies,” they are attached to the sea floor by stalks. Most modern crinoids are free swimmers, but ancient crinoids were mostly attached to the ocean floor by stalks. The fossils Buchanan found are parts of crinoids stalks. Buchanan wanted to learn more about her crinoid find in West Graham, so she sent a few of them to the Smithsonian Institute. Those
fossils eventually made it to the desk of Dr. David L. Meyer, who was then working as a research specialist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Galeta Marine La b o r a t o ry in Balboa, Canal Zone. Meyer earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1971, and served with the Smithsonian until 1975 when he accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati. His research while with the Smithsonian resulted in the publication of an article, “Living Crinoids of the Caribbean,” and his research has put UC at the forefront of graduate level paleontology programs in the U.S. “Dave is one of the world’s experts on living crinoids, the spectacular ‘feather star,’ one of which, ‘Davister,’ is named for him,” according to a UC web site that details faculty achievements. Meyer received Buchanan’s letter and fossil samples on Aug. 6, 1974. In his response dated Aug. 22, 1974, he expressed his appreciation to Buchanan for sending him the crinoid stem plates. “In my present work with living unstalked crinoids and other marine invertebrates, I don’t get to see much fossil material and I really appreciate receiving these fossils from you. “I regret that I can’t give you a name for the species of crinoid that produced these fossils probably 300-400 million years ago,” he wrote. “You see, many ancient crinoids as well as some living ones, have stem plates of the kind you have found, and it is usually quite difficult to associate stems with particular crinoid species. “What is usually needed is the fossilized crown of the crinoid which the stem supported above the sea bottom,” he continued. “However, these are among the rarest of invertebrate fossils since they usually fell apart into countless smaller plates before they could become fossilized. There are some ancient crinoids which had very distinctive stem plates — oval shaped or having projecting spines — and when these stems are found with the crown, then they can be recognized as to the species when later found separately. “Some of these very distinctive types of stems have been given scientific names apart from the actual crown,” Meyer wrote. “But then when they are later found with the crown, the crinoid ends up with two names! Nevertheless, these distinctive fossils can be of value as index fossils.” Buchanan was thrilled to l e a rn more about her West Graham discovery, and in order to add to her collection, she showed her elementary students what the crinoid fossils looked like, told them
where they might safely search for them and sent them out to find more. She paid a penny-per-fossil bounty on the ancient fossils and her students wound up finding enough to almost fill a cigar box. Meyer wrote more about why he is fascinated with crinoids. “I have recently been studying the micro-architecture of the crinoid skeleton with a friend of mine at the University of Michigan, Dr. Brad Macurda,” he wrote. “We are using the scanning electron microscope to take some striking 3-dimensional photos at high power which reveal an amazingly complex m i c r o s t ructure which resembles a lattice or ‘monkey-bars.’ We are beginning to examine w e l l - p r e s e rved fossil material in hopes of studying the same s t ructure we see in the living crinoids. “In this way, we hope to study the evolution of the crinoid skeleton and the myriad ways in which the crinoids have adapted to their environments and mode of life throughout their history,” he wrote. “I will examine the fossils you sent me to see if any s t ructural details are preserved. One plate does appear to show concentric growth rings which are very interesting.” Meyer wrote that he enclosed a copy of his article on living crinoids of the Caribbean, and added that he hoped to go to the Indo-Pacific region soon where they are even more prolific. “Crinoids are fascinating to me and I find that trying to unravel their evolutionary hist o ry is very rewarding to me,” he wrote. “Thus, I am especially delighted to hear from someone who has also found crinoids and other fossils to be of interest. Thank you again for writing and I would be happy to examine any other fossils you might come across.” Meyer still works at UC. His book about rocks and fossils of the Cincinnati area, “A Sea Without Fish,” (Indiana University Press 2009) is wellrespected in both professional and amateur scientific communities. “This is a very interesting area to live in,” Buchanan said. “The St. Clair Fault goes right through our Graham Recreation Park and the region is known for its karst topography. I grew up on Cumberland Road in Bluefield, and everyone knew about the Beacon Cave in the Feuchtenberger field. There was a pond there that just disappeared. It went down into the karst limestone deposit there.” Buchanan said that she has never lost her love of studying her surroundings and her passion for unlocking the mysteries of the area’s prehistoric past.
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Natural science... Joyce Buchanan has had a lifelong interest in the study of natural science, and has worked tirelessly in more recent years to increase public awareness of the region’s diverse watersheds and of the need to protect the region’s vital water resource.
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Tazewell County waters feeds 6 systems of the Ohio River By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph LUEFIELD, Va. — The late Clyde W. Bowling, who passed away earlier this year on April 24, at the age of 101, spent the last quarter-century of his life dedicated to improving conditions for the people of his home county. Bowling was passionate about helping young people, as evidenced by his 30 years of serving as a Boy Scout leader, and the 40 years he served on the Tazewell County Transportation Commission. However, he was equally committed to protecting and preserving the environment, and one of the last great projects he devoted his time and efforts to before age slowed him down a bit, was the protection of the various watersheds that are connected to Tazewell County. Of course, Bowling was an ardent protector of the various species of fresh water mussels in the Clinch River system, but he had an incredible grasp of all the watersheds in Tazewell County. During an informal conversation one day, Bowling recalled that a flood during the mid1950s that hit the West Graham Section of Bluefield, Va., particularly hard, caused him to find out why the waters backed up so quickly and what could be done to protect the downstream areas as well. During the 1990s, Bowling and Joyce Buchanan, also of Bluefield, Va., a retired educator and a fellow member of the Mountain Dominion Resource Conservation and Development Area (R.C.& D.) educated themselves, then attended public meetings throughout Tazewell County to explain the importance of Tazewell County’s role in protecting the region’s fresh water resources. “Tazewell County is part of five major watersheds — the Holston, Clinch, Levisa, Big Sandy and Bluestone rivers,” Buchanan said. “There’s also a sixth watershed in the county. There’s one little stream that goes east out of Burke’s Garden that joins Wolf Creek in Bland County and enters the New River at Narrows, Va.
Staff photo by Bill Archer
Watershed Awareness... Tazewell County is located in a unique position geographically, at a strategic location for several important watersheds. Some Tazewell County streams flow east, with some joining the New River and others joining the Bluestone River. Some Tazewell County streams flow north and become parts of the Levisa and Tug forks of the Big Sandy River, while other streams flow west to join the Tennessee Rivers. All of Tazewell’s waters ultimately enter the Ohio River, and become part of the Mississippi River. The photo here is on the U.S. Route 460 H. Paul Buskell Memorial Bridge over the Clinch River between Richlands and Cedar Bluff, Va. “We don’t receive any water,” Buchanan said. “We give it all out. We’re right here at the Tennessee Valley Authority divides, where at this point, the water flows west into the Tennessee River system. Our waters also flow eastward into the Bluestone which joins with the New River and later, becomes the Kanawha River at Gauley Bridge.” The “hydrologic units” of Tazewell County are quite an
impressive array. The list includes: Upper Wolf Creek; Lower Wolf Creek/Clear Fork; Upper Bluestone River; Bluestone River, Laurel Fork; Upper North Fork Holston River; North Fork Holston River, Laurel Creek; North Fork Holston River, Wolf Creek, Tumbling Creek; Upper Clinch River; Clinch River, Indian Creek; Clinch River, Middle Creek; Clinch River, Swords Creek, Le w i s Creek; Little River; Dry Fork,
Jacobs Fork, Horsepen Creek. “At Amonate and Bishop, our streams go north,” Buchanan said. “In Tannersville, you have the start of the Holston River. The Beaver Pond Stream picks up at Le a t h e rwood Farms, flows past Bluefield College and through Lotito Park then meets with Whitley’s Branch. Wrights Valley Stream meets that stream under the railroad near Dudley’s Funeral Home. We have a lot of
streams in Tazewell County.” All of the Tazewell County waters eventually join the Ohio River. Along with the rivers and streams, Buchanan pointed out that the fresh water aquatic life in Tazewell County is also important. “We have the Tennessee Heel Splitter Mussel here,” she said. “The Clinch River has more of a variety of fresh water mussels than all of the rivers in Europe,” she said.
“Clyde did most of his work with the R.C. & D.,” Buchanan said. “Now, it’s not funded.” She said that Jack Asbury is currently the Tazewell County representative on the R.C. & D., but without funding, it is challenging to launch an on-going effort to increase public awareness of the importance of the many watersheds that come out of Tazewell County. — Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 9
Contributed photo by Marcus Constantino/Charleston Daily Mail
The Beautiful River... Bluefield native Marcus Constantino was recently honored by the West Virginia Press Association for his photograph of a fisherman on the Ohio River near Huntington. Millions of years ago, the now extinct Teays River cut a swath through West Virginia from Charleston to Huntington. The Ice Age altered the course of rivers in West Virginia, where water from the mountains of southern West Virginia once flowed into the northern Midwest states, they now flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The Teays River bed made construction of I-64 between Charleston and Huntington easier than most interstate highway construction in West Virginia.
Natural forces at work A closer look at the Teays River and the Great Inland Sea By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph
own right during that period and colder temperatures of the epoch that gave rise to its being known as the Ice Age OINT PLEASANT — had a pronounced impact on West Virginia’s largest plant and animal species on river, the Kanawha earth. River, is formed in Fayette Humans proved to be more County by the joining of the capable of adapting to draGauley and New Rivers. matic changes in their enviHowever, two million years ronment, and were therefore, earlier, there was another more likely to survive the great river — the now extinct advances of the Teays River — glaciers that that started in changed the The Pleistocene essentially the topography of same place epoch started northern West from the north about 2,588,000 Virginia and the and westward entire Midwest draining years ago and of the United foothills of the continued until States. Appalachian “The Teays Mountain about 11,700. used to be a Range, that The epoch is system that carved out a drained the notable for a path for civiwhole northern lization to folnumber of rea part of our low into the Midwest,” sons including mid-section of Mullennex said. the North the fact that As early as American conti1838, Dr. modern humans nent. Samuel Any examinacame into their Prescott tion of currents Hildreth of Ohio own right dur coming from had written for southern West ing that period the first Virginia and Geological and colder tem southwest urvey of Ohio peratures of the Sthat, Virginia has to “Great start with the epoch that gave changes have Teays, although evidently been it no longer car- rise to its being made in the ries any appreknown as the direction of all ciable water of our waterIce Age had a through most of courses before its course. pronounced they found their People familiar impact on plant present levels.” with the central However, it part of West and animal would take Virginia are another 65 species on earth. familiar with years for the Teays Professor Valley — the broad mile-wide William G. Tight of Denison swath of level land between University to speculate that St. Albans and Huntington. the Teays Valley, while not “It’s good for farmland in carrying a significant amount that part of the state, and it of water from St. Albans to was good for highway engiHuntington, was actually part neers when they built I-64 of the great river that drained from St. Albans to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Huntington,” Ron Mullennex According to a Nov. 29, 1983 said. Mullennex is senior vice New York Times article on president, Special Services the “Great Lost River,” Tight with Marshall Miller & named the extinct river Associates, based in Teays, for a West Virginia vilBluefield, Va., and is acknowl- lage named Taze. However, edged as one of the foremost Tight could just as likely geologists of the southern named the extinct river for West Virginia coal fields. Tazewell since Tazewell “Some of the valley is still County, Va., still provides a there from where it started at head water site for two the mouth of the Gauley, but streams that help make up most of it was wiped out durthe New — the Bluestone ing the Pleistocene epoch.” River that forms at the The Pleistocene epoch Divides in Tazewell County started about 2,588,000 years and Wolf Creek that flows ago and continued until about from Burke’s Garden, Va., 11,700. The epoch is notable into Bland County, Va. for a number of reasons The glaciers that drove including the fact that modsouthward during the ern humans came into their Pleistocene also shaped the
course of the Ohio River when the melt-off began at the end of the Ice Age. The Ohio is a southward-flowing river, unlike the Teays that flowed north and west. As a result, the region’s northward flowing rivers and streams including the Bluestone River, Elkhorn Creek, the Tug and Levisa forks of the Big Sandy River among others, according to Mullennex. “The other take on it is climate change,” Mullennex said of the natural forces that changed the region’s water drainage patterns. “Prior to the Ice Age and that dramatic event that brought a great deal of change to North America, the waters from this region flowed north and west. Now, because of that climate change issue, we have waters running to the south.” According to Mullennex, there’s another interesting aside in the natural power of climate change that came as a result of the Ice Age. “A ways north of where the Ohio crosses the old Teays River in Huntington, there was one part of the drainage system that went north and was part of the St. Lawrence River drainage system,” Mullennex said. “Today’s Ohio River system used to go north. There was a divide near Point Pleasant where the waters drained into the St. Lawrence system. The sheet of ice turned that system and got it all headed south.” There is, however, a more ancient big picture geological feature in our region that also vanished during the last Ice Age — the Great Inland Sea or Western Interior Seaway. The east central portion of North America remained high and dry during the Cretaceous Period, but a large lowland area bordered by the Rocky Mountain Range to the west and the Appalachians to the east formed a huge basin where waters from the Arctic Ocean mixed with waters from the Gulf of Mexico to form a saltwater sea that spread about 600 miles in width at its largest. Near the end of the Cretaceous period, about 145 million to 66 million years ago, the waters of North America’s inland sea began to recede in a southerly direction. As the water receded, the northern continental breach sealed — preventing additional Arctic Sea water from entering. In time, the southern portion of the sea also closed, blocking the
Atlantic Ocean waters from entering as well. The waters of the sea receded until they were final-
ly trapped in a low-lying basin, including an area of what is now Saltville Valley in Saltville, Va. As the glaciers
in the final stages of the Ice Age receded, animals like
10 Section V Sunday, September 29, 2013
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Lake effect... The Bluestone Lake is a manmade flood control reservoir on the New River near Hinton. At normal levels, the lake impounds a 10.7-mile area of the New and Bluestone rivers. The lake is normally 2,040 acres, but it can grow to as much as 36 miles long as a flood control pool and extend into Giles County, Va.
Bluestone Dam has interesting history By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph INTON — The big news in recent weeks related to the Bluestone Dam has involved a progress report on the 10year project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase the dam’s efficiency and to improve its flood control capacity. The project that started in 2010 will involve making improvements to the dam to enable it to handle maximum flood challenges. From the federal government’s standpoint, the mission of the Bluestone Dam has always been about flood control, but that hasn’t always been what the general public wanted for the waterway. In the 1880s, there was a movement afoot to clear a channel in the New River to make it navigable for flat-bottom river boats. On June 30, 1880, a report on the river indicated that the New River was 50 feet wide and 2 feet deep from Hinton Landing to Hubbard’s Ripple. At the time, officials reported a hope that the river could have the same kind of a channel from Hubbard’s Ripple to the Mercer County line, an additional 12 and one-half miles. While putting riverboats on the New River didn’t work out, private companies started working up the idea of building a hydroelectric dam at the confluence of the Bluestone and New rivers. By 1910, residents of Hinton had commissioned a set of drawings for the dam project with the hope of attracting an electric utility company to get
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Concrete Project... The Bluestone Dam is 165 feet high and 2,048 feet long and was authorized by a Presidential Executive Order in 1935. Private companies questioned federal authority in creating the flood control dam, delaying construction for more than a decade. The dam was completed in 1949.
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 11
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Work underway... Work started in 2010 on a $300 million improvement project designed to make the structure safer and improve the dam’s efficiency. Among other improvements, workers are installing new anchors in the dam to help the dam meet new federal maximum flood standards that were developed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the improvement project in 1999 and has projected the completion will be in 2020.
Bluestone... Continued from 10 involved in the project. Appalachian Power Co., had immediate interest in the project. The federal government took the position that the U.S. had control over the development, and after nearly a quarter century had passed, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration expressed the opinion that a Bluestone Dam would help control flooding on the New, Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, and improve navigation on the Kanawha, according to information on the Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers web site. The administration also believed that the sale of electricity produced at the Bluestone Dam and Reservoir would help offset the cost of construction. On Sept. 12, 1935, President Roosevelt ordered the Secretary of War to begin construction on a multi-purpose dam at the Bluestone River. The Corps of Engineers established an office at Hinton in 1936, and two area Civilian Conservation Corps camps were set up near the dam site
to provide clearing and initial preparations. APCO opposed the project, claiming that the New River was not a navigable waterway, according to the narrative about the dam construction project on the Huntington District’s web site. The government and APCO battled the question out in the courts, with the Corps of Engineers finding evidence that the New River had been used as a navigable river since the early 1800s. The Corps gathered evidence of the News use for travel including documentation that Chief Justice John Marshall led a delegation on the New River in 1812 to determine what improvements could be made to use the river for steamboat travel. In 1819, the Virginia General Assembly commissioned a survey of the river that included a 55-mile trip from the Greenbrier River to the mouth of Sinking Creek, and a Civil War veteran recalled that the Confederate Army used the New River to transport supplies. The Corps also produced documents indicating that steamboats and keelboats had traveled the New River. Still, the West Vi r g i n i a Power Co., a subsidiary of APCO, sought an injunction against condemnation of the
properties needed for the dam. The West Vi r g i n i a Power Company prevailed again with the Fourth District Court of Appeals upholding the District Court’s ruling that the New River wasn’t navigable, but on Dec. 16, 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the lower courts rulings, and thus, supported the constru ction of the Bluestone Dam. The ruling has had an impact far greater than the construction of the Bluestone Dam. The ruling “prioritized federal control over the nation’s waterways, and the actual or potential commerce exercised on those rivers,” according to the Huntington District’s web site. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revisit its decision, and on Nov. 11, 1941, the Corps announced that it would advertise for bids on the project. A month later, world events would change the constru ction time table as the federal g o v e rnment marshaled its resources to fight World War II, and build a super secret weapon before the enemy did. The government suspended work on the dam in 1944, resumed construction in 1946 and completed the project in 1949. The Bluestone Dam and
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Water ways... Water from the Bluestone Dam continues on the course of the New River until it joins the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River. The Kanawha follows the course of the ancient Teays River until it reaches Charleston, and veers northward to Point Pleasant where it joins the Ohio River.
Reservoir was the scene of a tragedy on March 31, 1949, when five workers were killed as they tried to place the 230foot long center span of the Bluestone High Level Bridge in place. The bridge was necessary to replace the state road leading to Pi p e s t e m that was underwater when the dam was completed.
At the time of its construction, the Bluestone Bridge was the highest bridge in the state, and only lost that designation when the New River Gorge Bridge was built. The span buckled and folded downward, falling 150 feet as the workers were connecting the second span to the third. The victims of the tragedy
were John Albert, 38, of Radford, Va., Eddie Brown, 29, of Romney, C.S. Rigney, 32, of Dublin, Va., Virgil A. Thomasson, 42, of Princeton and Paul Saunders, 39, of Radford. The bridge was completed in December of 1949. — Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 13
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14 Section V Sunday, September 29, 2013
Clean water benefits Oakvale community Editor’s note: The following story appeared earlier this year in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, but has importance in the context of water resources in the region and is therefore included here almost in its entirety.
manager with Stafford Consultants Inc., also related a personal story about the impact that clean drinking water has on a community. He said that his wife is from an urban area of Florida, but when she accompanied him to another similar ceremony, she was moved by the way that the community was happy about clean drinking water, but also for having water for fire protection. “Thank everyone,” Fowler said, and added that he is
ready to “move on to Phase IV B,” he said. “Most of what I do is intangible,” William Winfrey II, a well-known Mercer County attorney said. He explained that people come to him seeking help for their legal problems and he helps them, but it’s not the same thing as making a difference in a community. “Now, when I drive through your community and see a fire hydrant, I can point to that and say: ‘That’s good.’”
Kevin Meadows, Community Development Specialist II of the West Virginia Development Office congratulated the community. “I see, every day, the need for water all over the state,” Meadows said. Sherry Adams, project manager of the Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, expressed thanks to U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, DW.Va., for his on-going commitment to the program. “Without him, this project
wouldn’t be,” she said. She added: “We get to see this from beginning to the end. It makes us feel good to see the faces of the people this project will serve.” “In order to do a water project in West Virginia, you have to want a water project,” Kimberly Gross, regional representative of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. Reading from Tomblin’s prepared remarks, Gross said: “Changes will bring a better quality of life to the citizens.”
David Cole, director of the Region I Planning & Development Council represented Rahall at the ceremony. He read from Rahall’s remarks that recapped the development of the project during the past nearly two years. Rahall wrote that when the valve is turned, “there will be many fingerprints on it.” Mike Browning, regional representative of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin DW.Va., said that he learned the importance that a water system can make to a community when he interviewed a mayor of Gilbert about their new water project. Browning was a reporter at the time. He read Manchin’s remarks that indicated that a water project “is an investment in our people and it’s future.” Through no fault of his own, Gene Buckner of the Mercer County Commission, understood that the ceremony was scheduled for noon, and arrived moments after the formal valve turning. “This is a great thing for the community,” Buckner said. H.C. Warren, chairman of the Oakvale Road PSD said the project cost about $7.2 million. “Residents were hooked up as soon as the services reached their homes,” he said. “They’re hooked up and served with water.” Browning said that construction on the project started in the fall of 2011 and was completed in June. — Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com
human settlers of the region who used the ice-covered trail to cross from Asia into North America across the Bering Straight. Artifacts found in Saltville indicate that Native Americans were likely living in the area as long ago as 14,000 years ago. During more historic times, the brine waters that fill large salt caverns beneath Saltville played a significant
part in the American Civil War just 150 years ago. At the time, salt was an important ingredient in preserving meats — a high protein staple food. With a much more sophisticated navy at the start of the war, Union forces were able to bottle up southern ports and keep the south from exporting the kinds of pre-war seasonings needed to preserve meats.
As the war wore on, the Confederacy was forced to look inward for salt reserves, and Saltville’s brine wells worked to supply the southe rn states with salt. Near the end of the war, African American slaves from the Confederacy were conscripted to work in the salt works to boil down the brine to produce salt. Union armies attempted to destroy the salt-
works in 1862, ‘63 and ‘64, but the first two invasion attempts were headed off before troops reached Saltville. Confederate defenders held off Union invaders in a battle at Saltville on Oct. 2, 1864, but on Dec. 20, 1864, Union soldiers invaded the town and damaged the saltworks, although they were restored to working order in a short period of time.
Geological processes are constantly at work — shaping, tearing down and reshaping the world. The mountains of southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia provide an interesting crucible for examining natural forces and learning about the earth’s fascinating geological history. — Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Potts Creek runs into the James River, leaving the diamond found in Richmond,” Va.,” he wrote. The Dewey Diamond, a 23.75 carat diamond was found in Richmond in the flood plain of the James River in 1854, by Benjamin Moore who sold the stone to Captain Samuel W. Dewey. “As sea levels went back to n o rmal, the Tuscarora Sandstone began to extend into Virginia,” Bone wrote. “Plant life was developing in the sea and iron oxide was lain down,” he wrote. “At this time geologically, some primitive plant life was progressing along the coast of the sea,
and remained barren of life.” According to Bone, after the Taconic Mountains were formed, Baltica moved back to Europe and a new ocean started forming. That new ocean started to subduct beneath the eastern coast of North America until the land mass of Africa and South America crashed into the Taconic Mountains. “So much pressure existed that the now w o rn down Taconic Mountains acted like a plow and rock layers folded, leaving the valley and ridge section of Virginia,” Bone wrote. Bone said that on the weste rn side of Peters and East
River mountains, “have a string of Tuscarora Sandstone boulders a little distance from the top,” he wrote. “Both sides of the mountain could be prospected. The west side probably has greater erosion of the (sandstone), but conditions do exist. Any streams draining the west side can disappear underground near the bottom. A layer of dolomite similar to limestone has been etched into caverns. This is called Karst topography, and Organ and Beacon caves are the best known.” Bone said that he explored the Beacon Cave in 1954
when he was still in his teens. “It’s an extensive cave with a huge break about 200 feet high,” he said during a telephone interview. While he wanted to become a geologist, Bone studied psychology in college and taught at area colleges including West Virginia Wesleyan, Alderson-Broaddus and Bluefield College. He also taught briefly at Richlands High School. “I would like for more people to know there are diamonds up there,” he said. He pointed out that most diamonds are industrial grade and are worth less that it
would cost to get them cut. The Jones Diamond only brought $74,250 when it was sold in 1984 through Sotherby’s auction house in New York, according to the 1996 article published in “Virginia Minerals.” Bone added that 9 out of 10 diamonds are of industrial grade, and only 10 percent can be cut as gems. “I think it would be a fun hobby for people to get involved in,” Bone said. “It might be the start of another tourist development in the area,” he said. — Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com
the Pocahontas No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 seams. “We’re the Saudi Arabia of coal,” Daniel Smith, former president of Bluefield-based Pocahontas Land Company, now retired said. Pocahontas Land is a wholly owned mineral resource management subsidiary of the Norfolk Southern Corporation. Pocahontas Land owns more than a million acres of land that, if it were contiguous, would be larger than the state of Rhode Island. “The early miners were necessarily unconscious of the vast area one company might later control, and could have had no thought of the possibility of removing the water from so many acres of land by such a simple manner,” according to the text of a pamphlet commemorating the project published by Pocahontas Fuel in 1936. “Unconsciously, they were making plans and doing work on something that was later to be of untold value.” The work was started with the No. 35 Mine at Jacobs Fork, between the Virginia/West Virginia border town of Bishop to the west and Amonote to the east. The actual discharge point for the
project is at the head of a remote valley between Vallscreek and Amonate on a d ry branch near the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. It seems so far away from anything, that its pristine outward appearance is deceptive of the Herculean task the coal miners accomplished to create the system. With the No. 35 Mine underway, miners at the No. 5 Mine in Jenkinjones started digging on a westward heading in June of 1932. Since the No. 5 header is located 2.7 miles underground, engineers anticipated that coal miners would encounter a great deal of water from the start. “Strange as it may seem, very little water was encountered, and at no time did it cause particular delay in the work,” according to the text of the pamphlet. The project represents much more than a tunnel. Roof conditions were bad, so miners had to install steel supports to keep the channel open. Railway tracks were laid to remove coal and rock, and elaborate air ventilation systems were installed. The volume of materials removed
in the project could reveal ratios as high as 10 to 1. For example on the No. 35 Mine, 45.1 miles of entries were dug, removing 724,640 tons of materials to create 4.1 miles of the drainage system. Mining commenced at the No. 36 Mine at Dry Fork in September of 1934 and work on a 5,500-foot section to connect Boissevain to Jenkinjones was launched in June of 1935. “It is hard to comprehend such long distances could be driven along the coal seam without a great deal of ditching and grading,” according to the pamphlet. “In addition to the unknown value of drainage, miles of this vast area have been conclusively proven, and the owners can now figure with reasonable exactness the future of their mining operations.” Pocahontas Fuel brought the coal miners and engineers who completed the project together on June 13, 1936 for a brief ceremony. A few months later, the company ordered medals struck, personalized and presented to each person who worked on the project. The coal miners removed 1.3 million tons of coal and rock, but in the process, freed a sin-
gle known coal deposit of 190 million tons that could be mined at a constant rate and a predictable expense. While the Boissevain and Pocahontas mines worked out in the mid-1950s, Pocahontas Fuel (later CONSOL) mined coal from Bishop at the new No. 34 Mine starting in 1943 until the early 1980s; from Jenkinjones until the mid1980s; and from Amonate until the late 1980s. Coal miners who worked those mines say that while the volume of water changes, its presence is constant. At that critical moment in history, with Hitler and the
Nazis (1933) getting bolder in Germany, Benito Mussolini and the Fascists (1922) in power in Italy and Emperor Hirohito and his military government controlling Japan (1936), the so-called Free World was facing some mighty challenges. Yet at that same time, American coal miners had placed the world’s richest deposit of pure energy in the hands of its nation. America had the power and energy to create and fuel a war machine like none other ever assembled in world history. That power was coal. — Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org
By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph AKVALE — Aug. 23, was a rainy day in Mercer County, but the people of Oakvale who gathered ito celebrate the completion of Phase IV A of the Mercer/Summers Water Project considered it to be a red letter day for the community. The completion of the project means that 370 Oakvale area residents now have clean drinking water in their homes. “I’m very proud of this,” Pamela Browning, manager of the Oakvale Road Public Service District said in her welcoming remarks at the ceremony. She said that the most important lesson she learned during the process was: “I do not take for granted the water that comes out of my faucet.” Browning wasn’t alone in her excitement over the completion of Phase IV A. Sean Graves, director of operations of West Virginia American Water, recalled growing up in the small Putnam County town of Buffalo without having clean drinking water. “In the mid-’90s we got water,” he said. “It is a privilege to serve.” Stacy Fowler, P.E., project
Forces... Continued from 9 Mastodons, Woolly Mammoths and others collected around the brine-layden section of the disappearing inland sea to consume salt. The trails that the animals used as they traveled to Saltville provided pathways for exploration for the first
Diamonds... Continued from A-1 According to Bone, a Silurian period layer of stone at the top layer of Peters and East River mountains, “is a secondary diamond deposit and is called Tuscarora Sandstone,” he wrote. “It extends northward and the deposits become thicker. Seneca Rock is composed of Tuscarora Sandstone.” Bone claims that the west side of the Tuscarora Sandstone produced the Jones and Gillespie diamonds. “On the east drainage
Marvel... Continued from A-1 decided to drive a drainage shaft 18,000 feet from Boissevain to Jenkinjones. Although engineers estimated the job would take seven years to complete, miners working from both mines completed the job in about two years. As a bonus, the coal mined during the tunneling process was “the industry standard” of metallurgical coals. Therefore, the coal extracted in the process had a high commercial value. At that time, Pocahontas Fuel had a reputation as a major player in the global energy/steel production market. The company negotiated an exclusive contract in 1909 to provide all the coal for the construction of the Panama Canal, and landed lucrative contracts to supply the U.S. Navy with “Genuine Pocahontas Smokeless Coal” during World War I. Pocahontas coal fueled all the ships in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War, and was the major supplier for the steel industry from 1926 until before World War II. Less than five years after the completion of the 3.4-mile long drain way from Boissevain to Jenkinjones, Poca Fuel engineers started discussing a much larger project that would open up an e n o rmous coal reserve. A pair of major acquisitions in 1923 and ’24, sidetracked that development for about a halfdozen years, but in the fall of 1931, Pocahontas Fuel gave the order for work to start on an 18.6-mile long drainage tunnel system that would drain more than 12,000 acres underlain by a known reserve of 190 million tons of coal from
Staff photo by Jon Bolt
Clean Water... David Cole, Stacy Fowler, Sherry Adams, H.C. Warren, Kevin Meadows, Kimberly Gross, Mike Browning, John Pentasuglia and Pamela Browning are shown here turning the valve to ceremonially bring public water services for the $7.2 million Oakvale Road Public Service District water project in Oakvale.
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section V 15
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Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 1
Pieces of our puzzle: Downtowns Country roads Vistas
Home fields Currents
Staff photo by Jon Bolt
Now open... One of the area's most anticipated new businesses, Sweet Frog was the first to occupy a new set of storefronts in Princeton completed this summer.
Hope for regional growth builds By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph RINCETON — A slowly improving national economy is prompting renewed hope for regional growth. Already, pockets of development are being reported across Mercer and Tazewell counties. And officials are hoping to see bigger economic development and tourism projects take root in the nottoo distant future. “I continue to think very positively of this side of the county — just because of the highway system that we have and Exit 9,” Robert Farley, executive director of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, said. “There is still property on Exit 9. I still think the county is just right on the verge of something really big happening.” However, growth in the county has still been tempered in recent months due to the national economy, and continued uncertainty over the looming fall implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also commonly known as
Obamacare. “When we do industry visits that is one of the largest topics right now,” Mercer County Development Authority Executive Director Janet Bailey said of the new health care law. “I don’t think there is any question that businesses are looking at that very diligently,” Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, said of the new health care law. “Now there has been a 12 month extension for businesses to comply, which is important. What businesses lack now and have lacked for a number of years is certainty from our government. Not just with the Affordable Care Act, but taxes and all costs associated with doing business. And until there is some certainty, a business is hard pressed to expand, open new locations, or whatever.” Despite the continued uncertainty surrounding the new health care law, discussions are continuing with a number of business
Staff photo by Jon Bolt
In Princeton... With a high daily traffic flow, Stafford Drive in Princeton still offers prime locations for growth-minded area businesses.
2 Section VI Sunday, September 29, 2013
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
More construction needed... Lawmakers contine to push for federal funding for highway projects.
‘It will be built’ Highway supporters continue to press for funding to complete projects By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph LUEFIELD — A bridge to nowhere in Bluefield. An unusable, and non-paved, four-lane segment in Welch. A proposed two-lane scenic parkway in limbo. Has all hope been lost for the completion of the King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway and the Shawnee Parkway? Not according to area highway supporters, who are still pressing for additional federal and state dollars to continue construction on the future four-lane corridors. An unfinished section of the King Coal Highway in Mercer County, which ends abruptly near the twin interstate bridges high above Stoney Ridge in Bluefield, is a point of particular frustration to area officials. The hope is to connect the bridge and the four-lane corridor with Route 123, thus creating a usable section of the King Coal Highway near the Mercer County Airport. However, it will take an estimated $66.9 million in federal funds to build the additional 2.39 miles of the local Interstate 73/74/75 corridor in Mercer County. “It’s going to take some time, but it will be built,” King Coal Highway Authority Executive Director Mike Mitchem said. “It’s a really important highway. I think there is a large cry out there from the public wanting it done. Without infrastructure you don’t have economic development. And it (the King Coal Highway) also takes a lot of people out of the flood zone. I think funding will come.” “I’ve been around enough to see a pattern developing here,” Coalfields Expressway Executive Director Richard Browning added. “The federal people are asking the states and local people to come up with highway money on their own now. That’s real-
ly hard for us to do on our Park in Welch. own now. We can’t toll and we The authority also is can’t raise the gas tax. The requesting $158 million for feds really need to step up two segments of the King and come up with a national Coal Highway in Mingo plan for transportation to County, including a 5.3 mile keep us going into the 21st section from Mary Taylor century.” Mountain to Buffalo Members of the King Coal Mountain and $18 million for Highway Authority have the Sharon Heights made repeated requests for Connector near Gilbert. federal funding assistance. The authority also is seekTheir last trip to Washington ing another $77.3 million for was just earlier the Tolsia this year, and Highway segAn unfinished included meetment of the ings with U.S. future I-73/74/75 section of the Rep. Nick corridor. The King Coal Rahall, D-W.Va., King Coal and Highway in U.S. Rep. Tolsia highways Shelley Moore represent the Mercer County, Capito, R-W.Va., West Vi r g i n i a which ends and staff memcorridors of bers representabruptly near the Interstate 73/74. ing U.S. Sen. Mitchem said twin interstate Joe Manchin, the authority bridges high D-W.Va., and members also U.S. Sen. Jay continue to above Stoney Rockefeller, Dpress for state Ridge in W.Va. During funding assisthe trip they tance as part of Bluefield, is a renewed their ov. Earl Ray point of particu - G request for the Tomblin’s Blue lar frustration to Ribbon $66.9 million in federal funds Highway area officials. needed to creCommission, ate a usable which is looking segment of the at ways to raise King Coal Highway in Mercer additional state revenue for County linking the four-lane road maintenance, repair and c o rridor with the Christine construction. Mitchem said West Bridge. the authority also will apply “I don’t feel like the money for future funding pools from coming back to the states is the Transportation pork,” Mitchem said of the Investment Generating authority’s request for milEconomic Recovery (or lions in federal funds for the TIGER) funds as they West Virginia leg of the future become available. Interstate 73/74/75 corridor. “I The King Coal Highway is feel like the money coming proposed to extend some 95 back to the state is for the miles through Mingo, Wayne, people. Because it’s their tax Wyoming, McDowell and money. And that’s what is Mercer counties with the going to build the roads. Tolsia segment from We’ve already waited too long Williamson to Huntington now. I think it’s time we act.” extending another 55 miles. The delegation of Mercer, The news has been slightly McDowell, Mingo and Wayne better for the West Vi r g i n i a county officials also requestsegment of the Coalfields ed $20 million to help build Expressway. The state the long-planned interchange Division of Highways agreed of the King Coal Highway and earlier this summer to allothe Coalfields Expressway at cate $3 million in state fundthe Indian Ridge Industrial ing to match a $5 million
TIGER grant. That combined with $12 million in additional sources — mainly unused funding allocated to the Coalfields Expressway — will allow for the start of construction on a new $20 million segment of the roadway in Wyoming County. “Because we have always relied on special appropriations, we never had access to any discretionary monies that the state got for road building,” Browning said. “We have finally moved into I guess what is called the A-list now where we are getting some of those discretionary funds. I say that in hopes that the U.S. Congress will start doing their jobs and come up with some money to help us build some of this highway.” The work is expected to begin this fall creating a twomile, grade and drain section of the Coalfields Expressway from West Helen to County Route 12/1. The contract is one of four separate projects planned to connect West Helen to Mullens in Wyoming County. “We need an additional $80 million to get all the way to Mullens to complete another usable section,” Browning said. “So we are looking at $100 million to get the road finished down to Route 54 so it can be tied into Mullens. The contract they are letting brings the road into Wyoming County. This is the first fourlane segment into Wyoming County. And it will be finished at grade. Nothing will be useable until we get down to Mullens, and pave it all the way back to where it ends now at Slab Fork.” Browning said just a little over four miles of the Coalfields Expressway is currently finished and in use by motorists in Raleigh County. Browning said members of the Coalfields Expressway Authority are still working with the McDowell County Economic Development Authority and a local coal company to help create a
usable segment of the roadway in Welch near the Indian Ridge Industrial Park. The authority hopes to complete the project at a savings of more than 40 percent for the state with the help of the private partner coal company. Browning said the EDA has already leased coal to Southern Minerals, and the company could still mine coal as part of a possible publicprivate partnership while also leaving additional coal behind for future generations. “The coal company gets the coal, the EDA gets flat land, and we get a highway,” Browning said. “Everyone wins. We’ve got a very good team of open-minded people, along with our DEP in the state, and our office of surface mining people who want to do this. We just have to figure out how to do it within the rules. I’m optimistic. I’m very optimistic we will get it done.” The Coalfields Expressway will extend 62 miles in length and connects the city of Beckley with the Virginia/West Virginia state line where it intersects with the Virginia alignment for the Coalfields Expressway. The West Virginia segment of the Coalfields Expressway will extend through Raleigh, Wyoming and McDowell counties. In Virginia the Coalfields Expressway will extend another 51 miles from Pound in Wise County through Dickenson and Buchanan counties. The roadway also is known as U.S. Route 121 IN Vi r g i n i a . In neighboring Vi r g i n i a , slow progress continues on the Coalfields Expressway — thanks in part to a successful public-private coal synergy agreement with Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha Natural Resources and Rapoca Energy are partnering in Virginia to build the roadway. However, only a two-mile section of the Coalfields Expressway in Virginia has been completed
to date in Buchanan County. That rough grade section was finished in the summer of 2011, according to an earlier Associated Press report. The Commonwealth Transportation Board was asked earlier this year to take up a proposed realignment of the Coalfields Expressway. The Commonwealth Transportation Board also agreed last year to allocate another $120 million in state and federal funds toward the development of the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia as part of its six-year transportation plan. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also announced in late June that the Commonwealth Transportation Board was moving forward with plans to develop the related U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II project in Buchanan County, a project that will link the Coalfields Expressway to Ke n t u c k y. The U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II is a 6.2mile four-lane, limited access highway located between the U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase I, which is under construction near the Breaks Interstate Park, and the proposed Route 121 (Coalfields Expressway) interchange in Buchanan County. The Shawnee Parkway — a scenic two-lane roadway — is proposed to extend 22 miles from Ghent in Raleigh County to the mountaintop ridges of Mercer County before it ultimately connects with the King Coal Highway near Crumpler in McDowell County. So far only 1.22 miles of the Shawnee Parkway have been constructed in the Ghent area of Raleigh County, bringing the roadway within striking distance of the Mercer County line. However, the project also remains stalled due to a lack of state and federal funding. — Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 3
City continues to search for Roundhouse Square funding By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph BLUEFIELD — Although construction was completed earlier this summer on the interpretative walkway phase of the project, the future of the project formerly known as the Colonial Intermodal Center project remains uncertain. The so-called “Railroad and Coal Heritage Interpretative Walkway” is envisioned by city officials as a prelude to the much-larger “Roundhouse Square” intermodal center project. The walkway contains signage exploring Bluefield’s history with the railroad and coal industries. “What you will see is a prelude of the transportation hub and interpretative plaza,” City Manager Jim Ferguson says of the interpretative walkway. “So the interpretative walkway is a prelude to the transportation hub and interpretative plaza. And then you will have the pods around it that are there to market for private investment.” The signage and walkway is proposed to be incorporated into the Roundhouse Square, a large-scale transportation hub with pods for future businesses growth in the downtown area. However, the final project will take millions more in additional federal dollars to complete. And so far only $600,000 has been secured for the development by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. But the city is still actively searching for grant, state and federal funding for the project, according to Ferguson. “By the end of this fall, it will be a construction-ready proj-
ect,” Ferguson said. “When all the project, or seek a new of the design and engineering development for the site. is completed, and all of the During earlier editorial architectural (work) is comboard session interviews by plete, we will be pursuing the Daily Telegraph with the grant funding, and money candidates, several of the new from the federal (governboard members had questions ment) and states. We can then or concerns about the project. go and say we have a conSome felt the site of the forstruction-and-shovel-ready mer Colonial Theater, Matz project. We can go with this Hotel and Princeton Avenue and get some financial supParking Garage should be port to move forward.” actively promoted now for The $600,000 secured by new economic development Rahall is being used for engiand growth — as opposed to neering and waiting for design work on additional fedThe $600,000 the larger projeral dollars to ect, as well as secured by Rahall be released for the interpretathe intermodal is being used for tive walkway center. segment. The The new city engineering and name of the board will have design work on project was offito carefully cially changed the larger project, review the projto the ect, Mayor Tom as well as the “Roundhouse Cole said. Square” on July “It would be a interpretative 29. project that the walkway seg However, all board is going ment. The name five incumbent to review with Bluefield Board of the project was the outgoing of Director board and the officially changed consulting firm members who came up with that is engaged to the the idea of the in that project, “Roundhouse Colonial and review the Intermodal benefits or Square” on July Center, and review what is 29. advocated its the impact that development, (project) would are now gone. have on our Two opted not to seek re-eleccommunity before we would tion, and the remaining three make a decision,” Cole said. were defeated in June during Cole said the new board a “clean sweep” of the board. members also must consider The new city board, which the likelihood of if and when took office on Aug. 1, is comadditional federal funds will posed of Mayor Tom Cole, be available for the project. Barbara Thompson Smith, Rahall said he is interested Ellen Light, Chuck McGongle in working with the five new and Mike Gibson. It is not yet city board members on the clear if the five new board project formerly known as the members will fully support Colonial Intermodal Center.
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Checking it out... Jamie Danley and Tashawna Adkins read the signs along the Railroad and Coal Heritage Interpretive Walkway at Round House Square.
Rahall said he read a candidate profile story in the Daily Telegraph where some of the newly elected board members discussed their questions or concerns about the project. “I called most and left messages with the new mayor, and all of the new city board members within days of their election, and I said I looked forward to working with them on this and other issues that effect the city,” Rahall said. “So yes, I do look forward to working with them.” The intermodal vision was born following the collapse of two historic structures, and the demolition of a third. First the city’s old brownstone structure, or the old People’s Bank Building, partially collapsed on Nov. 19, 2008. The entire structure, along with portions of adjoining buildings, were later razed. Then the near century oldsix story Matz Hotel collapsed during the early morning hours of Feb. 27, 2009, leaving a sea of rubble along Princeton Avenue and downtown Bluefield. The collapse of the Matz also destroyed the marquee and front lobby of the Colonial Theater, a stru cture built in 1916. The Matz Hotel — a landmark that occupied a prominent position in Bluefield’s city skyline for 98 years — was originally erected in 1911. Then the old Princeton Avenue Parking Garage, a structure built in 1975, was demolished in 2012 after months of debate by city officials over whether the structure should be renovated or demolished. Although not a part of the intermodal site, the old Scott Street Parking Garage was also demolished by the former city board in 2012. With the exception of the weekly downtown flea market, the old Princeton Avenue Parking Garage had been largely under utilized in recent years. It was built in the mid 1970s, but only enjoyed a few years of maximum usage before the opening of the Mercer Mall in 1979. At that time, several large businesses — including J.C. Penney — relocated from the downtown to the newly opened Mercer Mall located outside of the city. The old
physician-owned Bluefield Sanitarium also relocated to its present location on Cherry Street in 1980, adding to the growing downtown woes. The intermodal center project envisions a central downtown transit hub with connected pads or lots for prospective business tenants. At least one prospective business has already expressed an interest in one of the pod sites, according to City Manager Jim Ferguson. The project aims to increase foot traffic in the downtown area. The preliminary master plan for the transit center was unveiled in 2011 by Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering
firm from Lexington, Ky., selected by the city to develop the plans for the project. According to the master plan, the intermodal center, contained in an area between Princeton Avenue, Federal Street, Raleigh Street and Scott Street, would feature building pads on which new structures could be built or shell buildings could be constructed. A plaza and a transit transfer center along Princeton Avenue also would be developed for public buses as part of the proposal. The building spaces also
4 Section VI Sunday, September 29, 2013
Coal continues to feel the pressure By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph LUEFIELD — The metallurgical coal mined deep under the mountains of Appalachia has powered our nation for decades. But the still abundant fossil fuel that once helped to stop the march of Hitler’s war machine during World War II, and later went on to help build the nation’s skyscrapers, is now under attack. Not by a competitive industry or a foreign enemy. But instead by an administration in Washington that blames coal and other fossil fuels on climate change. Just earlier this summer, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum — and thus bypassing congressional action — in launching the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing coal-fired power plants. The new rules are being enforced by what critics say is an overreaching federal Environmental Protection Agency. “I have no reason to think that it is going to change,” Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said of the administration’s stance on coal. “We have no recent experience or any indication in the permits (of a change in attitudes), and the EPA’s treatment of mining permits is still very, very laborious. They are absolutely trampling upon state rights.” Despite the challenging road ahead, Raney remains upbeat about the future of coal. Coal, after all, is still responsible for 97 percent of all electricity generated in West Virginia, and about 40 percent of the electricity used in America. “Southern West Vi r g i n i a has the finest metallurgical coal in the world,” Raney said. “The bright spots in my mind is we have the finest coal seams in the world, and coal miners and managers in the world. If anyone can make it work, those people can. There is such an emphasis on safety. So our coal is a little higher. It’s kind of got that good house-keeping seal on it. Because the quality is good. We hope the customers around the world will recognize that and will continue to want West Virginia coal and American coal.” Raney said coal is still America’s must abundant fossil fuel. “America has more coal than any other country in the world,” he said. “You would
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
On the tracks... Coal mined from the appalachian mountains rools through the Bluefield rail yard recently. think everyone would be pulling on the same wagon and that everyone would be doing everything to ensure that coal is not used only today, but also in the future. It’s absolutely vital to steel making. We turned to it and depended upon it in the industrial revolution. We’ve got to preserve that.” If the industry is to survive and grow, attitudes in Washington will have to change, according to Raney. “We are hopeful and guarded in the sense that the challenges are immense,” Raney said. “But we’ve got to have a better attitude and or better philosophy or behavior out of Washington. And they’ve go to get to the point of encouraging the use of coal, and making it better. And devoting the research dollars to it.” Raney said recent comments by the Obama administration about coal are a “affront” to the thousands of families in Appalachia who have devoted their life to mining coal and transporting it. And now highway projects — such as a segment of the King Coal Highway in Mingo County — are being held up by the EPA because they are linked to coal synergy agreements. “Those coordinated (road construction and coal extraction) projects save the state governments tens of millions
of dollars,” Raney said. “But yet you can’t get the permits to do that. You know what a tremendous benefit it is to have the corridors built in the King Coal Highway, and the highway infrastructure just opens everything up. And for them to just absolutely stonewall that — I just don’t really understand. It’s just anti-West Vi r g i n i a and anti-Vi r g i n i a . ” Raney said the industry continues to recruit miners, including young miners. “The thing we’ve got to do is we need anyone who wants (a job) to show up everyday, work hard, pass a drug test and have some technical skills,” Raney said. “Our companies are doing everything they can to preserve our skilled people. Because when you get good employees, you want to hang on to them. “ Raney said excitement is building for the upcoming coal show in Bluefield this September. “It’s just a great time,” Raney said. “Our Bluefield Coal Show, as I’ve always said, is the greatest gathering of coal people, and skillful and knowledgeable coal people in the country. This is where it all started and how we built this country. And after 150 years they are still providing the coal that makes our electricity and steel.” The 20th biennial Bluefield
Coal Show sponsored by the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce will be held at the Brushfork National Guard Armory on Sept. 11, 12, 13 and 14. “We are extremely fortunate that all of the booth space is taken, and has been for a number of months now,” Marc Meachum, president
and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, said. “And we actually have a waiting list of potential people.” As in past years, show attendees and exhibitors will be afforded an opportunity to send electronic messages to their lawmakers in Washington in support of the coal industry. “We are working with the National Mining Association to do a letter writing campaign,” Meachum said. “We will set up a number of exhibits where attendees to the show and exhibitors can send communications to our elected representatives. We are just fortunate that the show continues with its popularity given the state of the industry.” Meachum said the Bluefield Coal Show has endured over the years for a very specific reason. “Bluefield continues to be the heart of the coalfields,” Meachum said. “This is where it all started. And the Bluefield Coal Show has maintained its position. Because we are right in the
middle of everything. We are interested in seeing how our attendance will be. Of course attendance will come from mine operators and mine owners, and supply people and buyers. Plus a lot of rank and file miners — we allow them to come to the show.” Meachum said the coal industry will survive — despite the challenges it is facing from Washington. “For a number of years, we are going to have to have coal — it’s still too vital in the energy mix of the country,” Meachum said. “We can’t stop mining coal. And the export market is still good. From a political standpoint, folks have to understand the significance of the mining industry, and what does in all of the states. And here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia it is absolutely critical. Coal has to be a part of an energy policy. But it appears that the current administration is not as in tune with that as they should be.” — Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 5
Staff photos by Eric DiNovo
Headed to the trail... Left, ATV enthusiasts prepare to ride the trails after stopping in Bramwell recently. Right, riders refuel at the Riverside Pop Shop before riding the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.
Good times keep rolling on trail By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph RAMWELL — The good times just keep on rolling for the HatfieldMcCoy Trail system. Now spanning more than 600 miles through seven southern West Virginia counties, the offroad system is living up to its original billing as a new tourism and economic development engine for southern West Virginia. The newest segment of the trail system — the Pocahontas Trail in Bramwell — has been open now for 14 months. “We are over 600 miles of trails in seven counties and are getting ready to open up our eighth trail system — Ivy Branch in Lincoln County,” Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, said. “Ivy Branch will get us up to 650 miles. We’ve had a great year. Our permit sales are up almost 7 percent right now. So we are having another year of growth.” The Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority was created by the state Legislature more than a decade ago for the purpose of serving as a new economic development and tourism engine for southern West Virginia. Since that time the seven-county trail system has been successful in attracting thousands of out-o f-town visitors each year to Mingo,
Logan, Boone, Wyoming and McDowell counties. Those visitors in return spend money at local stores, convenience stations, restaurants, camp sites and motels providing a boost to the overall economy of southern West Virginia, according to Lusk. The only stumbling block facing the trail system to date has been a lack of lodging sites for the out of town visitors. Although a number of entrepreneurs have stepped up to develop smaller lodging facilities — along with a much larger ATV resort being developed at the old Bramwell High School — there still isn’t enough lodging sites within close proximity to the Pocahontas Trail system to meet the demand. “We’ve added approximately 75 to 100 beds that were not here prior to us opening up (in Mercer County),” Lusk said. “But I see the need for more than double of that. Anybody that opens up a facility to provide lodging for trail riders helps us out. Every single bed is needed. But our supply and demand curve is all out of whack. We really had hoped it (lodging facilities in Mercer County) would have come a lot faster.” Lusk said the trail authority also would like to see a campground, or new campsites, developed in Mercer County. In neighboring McDowell
County, the Ashland Resort has been proven to be a big draw for riders along the Indian Ridge trail segment. Lusk said a new hotel or motel along the trail — or even in Bluefield — would also be a tremendous help. “But we are growing up there,” Lusk said of the Mercer County trail. “ E v e rything in your area is growing. Pe rmit sales are growing. I think the future for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in Mercer County is very, v e ry bright. We just need to get some places for people to stay and some more investments for them when they get here.” The eight current HatfieldMcCoy trail systems are Rockhouse, Buffalo Mountain, Bearwallow, Indian Ridge, Little Coal, Pocahontas, Pinnacle Creek, and Ivy Branch. A second-trail system is now being planned for McDowell County that aims to connect the cities of Welch, G a ry and War. The new trail system is in addition to the existing Indian Ridge Trail in McDowell County, which also connects with the new Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County. “”It’s a good network of trails,” Lusk said of the proposed War trail system. “It will connect the town of War, the town of Gary and the city of Welch with almost 100 miles of trails. It’s a big geographic
area to connect all three cities. It is actually our plan to connect it to Indian Ridge. That is phase two of the project. The first phase is to connect the three towns. When that connects with the Indian Ridge system, it will be great because people will be able to come in on the Mercer County side, put all of their stuff on the ATVs, and hit four systems at one time — Indian Ridge, Pocahontas, War Creek, Gary and Welch, Northfork, Keystone, Bramwell, Pineville and Twin Falls State Park. I’m excited about it. We are going to build it. It’s fully funded.” Lusk said the new system will be named after the city of War. Possible names under consideration include Warrior Creek or Wa rrior Trail. While housing is still a problem across the seven county trail system, some progress is being made. In fact, property sales have increased in and around the Bramwell area since a branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system opened in 2012. Mayor Louise Stoker said buyers have been acquiring properties in her town that have been vacant for years. And entrepreneurs have been buying properties in the area as well, including the former Bramwell High School, which is being converted into an ATV lodge. Stoker says town hall continues to receive inquiries from
potential buyers. Lusk said the trail system h as proven to be recessionproof. “We are in a period of growth,” he said. “We grew all throughout the Great Recession. We’ve actually
grown our permit sales every year since our inception. April 1 marked our 30th straight corridor of growth. That’s seven and a half years of growth. We’ve grown every year, and we are still growing.”
6 Section VI Sunday, September 29, 2013
Growth... Continued from 1 prospects, Bailey said. “One company has looked at the old Dean Company,” Bailey said of a potential manufacturing firm. “The company is still talking to investors and state representatives. We are working right now on another manufacturing company that may move into the Princeton area. We are in the process of negotiations. It will be manufacturing. As you know manufacturing is the lifeblood of any community.” Manufacturing jobs come with more competitive salaries and benefits, Farley added. “You know we are a serviceorientated community, and it would be nice to get some manufacturing in here to try to stabilize the economy,” Farley said. “The manufacturing end of it brings in higher salaries and benefits whereas with service orientated you are part-time without benefits. But even being service oriented — it is bringing money into your county.” One challenge Mercer County faces is a lack of “shovel ready” sites for prospective businesses and industries, Bailey said. However, some sites are still available at the county’s industrial parks. For example, two sites are currently available at the Turnpike Industrial Park that would provide a combined 13 acres. And the Virginia Industrial Park has about 30 acres available for development. The Bluefield Cumberland Industrial Park has another 50 acres that is still available for development. Beyond manufacturing, new retail and big box chains also continue to look at the area. Bailey said representatives of Target and Home Depot have made multiple visits to Mercer County, and are looking at sites in the Princeton and Oakvale areas, as well as a site near the Virginia state line in Bluefield. Bailey said a Target or Home Depot would serve as a catalyst to additional retail growth — adding that smaller stores and national chains would be developed in a shopping center housing a Target or Home Depot. Farley said representatives of Target and Home Depot are still looking at property east of Interstate 77 on U.S. Route 460. Representatives of the company have been in the Mercer County area “a couple of times” looking at sites, Farley said. “This year they got water all the way down to Oakvale, and they didn’t have water before,” Farley said. “It stopped before at Walmart.” That makes Exit 14 the next area ripe for growth in the greater Princeton area, according to Farley. “There is no question about that,” Farley said. “The businesses just seem like they want to be near an exit. After you get one (business at the exit) started, or something there, then things start happening. I believe that (Exit 14) will be the next one.” But there is still some property available near Exit 9 as well, including 200 acres of land off of Halls Ridge Road. Bailey said several prospective businesses have already looked at the site. And the old Kmart property just off of Exit 9 also is still available for development.
Exit 1 in Bluefield continues to face challenges, including state restrictions on billboards in Bland County. But projects are still underway at Exit 1, including the construction of the new Bluefield Area Transit offices. “I think anytime there is any new construction particularly right there that is visible as you come off the interstate, folks are going to want to know what it is,” Meachum said. “And I think it is a positive that it is located out there. It is certainly going to be a nice addition with the new construction. It’s a great location right at the top of the exit. We’ve all said for a long time that it would only take on start-up business or starting businesses to go out there and make that area really prosper. But available land (at Exit 1) is a challenge. What looks to be a lot of land goes up the mountain.” Farley said the addition of a new campus of New River Community and Technical College on Mercer Street in downtown Princeton will provide a big boost to the downtown area. The college is planning to share the old First Community Bank Building with the city, which will also operate city hall out of the same structure. And Farley said the strip mall that will house a new Sweet Frog and three other businesses is a sign of ongoing growth. Farley said the new Dunkin Donuts project is still a go for Princeton as well. And new apartments are being constructed at Exit 9 behind the Sleep Inn. “They will be like the Towers on Stafford Drive,” Farley said of the new apartment complex. “I think 55 or older.” Bailey said all four of the sites in the new strip mall in Princeton should be occupied by year’s end. Although Sweet Frog is confirmed, Bailey said she is currently not at liberty to identify the other businesses, but she adds that one is a local company that is expanding. Farley said the HatfieldMcCoy Trail system continues to reap benefits for Mercer County. In addition to bringing visitors and tourism growth to Bramwell, Farley said hotels off of Exit 9 continue to see ATV traffic on weekends. “I’m positive about the economy,” Farley said. “I think it’s just on the verge of breaking lose. The Sheetz people apparently saw something in Princeton, or certainly they would not have invested what they invested. Other things come in gradually.” A new housing development is planned at the St. Clair property in Bluefield, Va., and small business growth is still occurring in Bluefield, according to Meachum. “Available property is still at a premium with the boundaries that both the city of Bluefield and the town of Bluefield, Va., has,” Meachum said. “Without doing any boundary adjustments, the city and town sort of has their hands tied. But there continues to be some small businesses opening up in the two Bluefields. There is a new market opening in the downtown. And they seem to be very energetic folks. And I think probably one of the most exciting things particularly for the downtown area continues to be the work of the Bluefield Preservation Society. I understand the city board did change the traffic
patterns on Commerce and Raleigh streets. And there is working going on at the Granada. That’s a very dedicated, ambitious group of volunteers working on that. And I really do believe they will make it happen. They have the energy and the drive, and have received some funding. So I think that is very much a positive. And most of the businesses or buildings out on Cumberland Road are full — so they are occupied. It seems like when something becomes available out there someone else goes into it. And that holds true for South Bluefield and the professional offices as well.” With help from ATV riders and Boy Scouts, Mercer County’s tourism industry also has received a boost. “Tourism will continue to be a large industry,” Bailey said. “I look for that to really explode in the next couple of years especially with the Boy Scouts and the jamboree and the Bechtel (Family National Scout Reserve) farm. That is going to increase a lot of tourism in our area. I feel very positive for Mercer County. I think in the future you will see a lot of positive things happen in both retail and service-related jobs.” Bailey said investors also continue to look at sites for cabins, campgrounds and lodging facilities to help accommodate the new Hatfield-McCoy Trail. However, finding property for such housing and camping sites is still a challenge. “There is lodging that is becoming available with Bramwell and the old high school,” Bailey said of the new ATV resort at the town’s old high school. “You are also finding investors that are buying houses that are on the market. And the little town of Bramwell is booming. There is a lot of opportunity there that no one ever anticipated with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and businesses are growing.” “The hope is that once these Scouts get home their experience in our area has been v e ry positive, and they will want to come back before the next jamboree with their families and visit,” Meachum said. “We think we had a great opportunity that I think we took advantage of to showcase ourselves to the rest of the U.S. There was lots of work done in the Bluefield area months prior to the Scouts getting here. So we are pleased with that. I think the visitors found themselves to be very welcomed everywhere they went. The old saying is the first impression is the most important. Hopefully, they had a positive first impression of the area, and want to come back. And on the economic development side, I’m sure your story is going to have about the impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. It’s already increased lodging in the two Bluefields, and again restaurants and convenience stores and shopping (centers) all benefit from those folks coming in and staying in the area. Bluefield and Princeton has the most lodging available. There are more on weekends of course. Those are the people that are coming any distance. We see them going through town daily. So that’s a big, big plus and that’s only going to get better.” Just across the state line in neighboring Tazewell County, a number of tourism and economic development initiatives are continuing.
In Bluefield, Va., efforts to develop the new Bluefield College School of Dental Medicine at the Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park are on a fast track. But that doesn’t mean other prospective industries aren’t being recruited as well to the industrial park. “We’ve had some prospects that have looked at the Bluestone,” Margie Douglass, tourism and economic development director for Tazewell County, said. “We continue to market it. We’ve actually developed a packet with regards to the Bluestone. It’s a marketing packet.” Although one site at the park will be utilized by the dental school, Douglass said other sites are available and ready for occupancy. Also in Bluefield, Va., two West Virginia-side businesses have recently relocated across the state line border. Wells Fargo is now up and running inside of the old Kroger building in Bluefield, Va. The company brought 40 jobs with it to Tazewell County. And the Bluefield Automobile Club also recently relocated to the Ridgeview Shopping Plaza in Bluefield, Va., also creating several additional jobs. “We don’t go over and pursue projects on the West Virginia side, but if they are looking for sites we do want to keep them in the area,” Douglass said. Douglass said Ammars Inc. in Bluefield, Va., also is working on an expansion project, along with Pyott-Boone Electronics in Tazewell. And officials are hoping to begin construction soon on the Pocahontas segment of the new Spearhead Trail system. Funding for the Pocahontas leg of the Spreahead Trail is already in place. Douglass said the only thing lacking is a final land agreement before ground can be broken. The Mountain View Trail segment of the Spearhead system had a soft opening in St. Paul in Wise County earlier this summer. The Tazewell County section of the Spearhead Trail will be developed in two phases over 53 miles in the greater Pocahontas area. In other developments, Douglass said Belk also recently opened a second store in the Claypool Hill Mall, and the Clinch River Valley Initiative project con-
tinues to gain steam. The four county Clinch River Valley Initiative seeks to enhance water quality while connecting with outdoor recreational initiatives. Tazewell, Russell, Wise and Scott counties are collaborating on the project. “The Clinch River is one of the most bio-diversive regions in the world, and the Clinch River is the head waters of Tazewell County,” Douglass said. “One of the goals (of the initiative) is downtown revitalization and entrepreneurship. And one of the goals is a state park and environmental education. And then another goal is to define access points to where people could have public access to the river. There are places along the Clinch River like the Daily Bread Diner, which is a new restaurant located right at the Clinch River in Pisgah.” Douglass said the Back of the Dragon in Tazewell also has exploded into a major tourism draw for the county. About 6,000 people attended the “Awakening” program in June, including 2,500 people who traveled on motorcycles across the mountainous and winding ridgeline dubbed “The Back of the Dragon.” Douglass said people using motorcycles, sports cars and other off-road vehicles are driving the mountainous route throughout the year. “It’s exciting when you see all of these people coming in,” Douglass said of The Back of the Dragon. “So that’s been a good thing. We have also established tourism zones in the county in the last year — primarily in the Tazewell area near the Historic Crab Orchad Museum and Pocahontas. It’s an ordinance where the state has given the localities the ability to establish tourism zones, and they can provide incentives for tourism development and businesses that do tourism development. It’s by ordinance and actually Pocahontas was one of the first localities to take advantage of the tourism zones.” Douglass said tourism projects also continue to grow in Burkes Garden. “An Amish family has opened up the Burkes Garden General Store, and The Lo s t World Ranch is now open,” she said. “They give tours Monday through Friday, and
there is also a new green house that has opened with an Amish family.” Douglass said visitors to The Lost World Ranch can see camels, llamas and other exotic animals. In the town of Richlands, efforts to restore the historic railroad foreman’s section house are continuing. The structure dates back to 1890, but has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years. The town has been awarded $483,000 in federal transportation funds to help with the restoration project. The total cost of restoring the structure is estimated at $662,276. “I can tell you as far as Richlands is concerned, we have gotten the grant for the restoration of the section house and it is moving forward,” Ginger Branton, executive director of the Richlands Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The restoration that is going to take place is going to be a tremendous asset to Richlands.” Branton said the restoration of the section house is one of the last remaining projects from the original downtown revitalization plan, which dates back to 1995. “Now as people see the value of what’s happening in relation to tourism development where the state itself is providing additional incentives for these type of entrepreneur project to happen, it is coming to life now,” Branton said. Branton said another recent and positive development for the town was the acquisition of the health clinic at Claypool Hill by Clinch Valley Medical Center. “ E v e rything is going to stay intact,” Branton said. “There won’t be any substantial change other than the change of ownership.” Branton said the acquisition of the health center by CVMC keeps businesses and jobs in the greater Richlands and Claypool Hill area. “I don’t think any of us should be in the business of losing business, and I think we need to do whatever it takes for our businesses to be continually successful,” Branton said. “I’ve always been of the mindset that small business is what drives this country.” — Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 7
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
Ongoing construction... Construction continues on Phase II of the U.S. 460 Connector in Buchananon County. When complete in 2015, the project will have boast the two highest bridges in the state of Virginia.
Va. continues to invest in region’s roads By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph RUNDY, Va. — The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to invest millions in road construction across Southwest Virginia. The state’s investment in transportation comes at a time when federal highway dollars are becoming increasingly difficult to secure. The largest local project announced so far this year is a $108 million coal synergy plan for the U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II project in Buchanan County. The agreement is unique in that it will allow the state to save more than 50 percent on construction costs through the use of a private partner coal company, which will create the rough grade road bed while extracting coal. The announcement of the approval of the design-build contract was made in late June by Gov. Bob McDonnell. McDonnell traveled to Buchanan County on Aug. 10 to formally launch the project. The design-build contract was awarded to Bizzack Construction for phase two of the connector project to complete the next 6.2 miles of the section to rough grade. The first phase of the project cost $113 million, and phase two will cost an additional $108 million. When all of the work is finished, two of the tallest bridges in the Commonwealth will be located in Buchanan County. The Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Greg Whirley to award and execute the $108 million design-build contract in June to construct the road bed. When the work on the phase two connector project is completed, only 13 miles will remain to complete the fourlaning of U.S. Route 460 from Christiansburg to the Kentucky state line. “This contract creates an opportunity to save over 50 percent in the construction of the rough grade road bed for this new section of U.S. Route 460 using coal synergy,” McDonnell said in the early summer announcement. “When the Route 460 Connector is completed, it will bring significant benefits to the area, including transportation improvements, jobs and economic development."
The U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II is a 6.2mile four-lane, limited access highway located between the U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase I, which is under construction near the Breaks Interstate Park, and the proposed Route 121 (Coalfields Expressway) interchange in Buchanan County. The design-build contract will use the coal synergy concept to provide a road to rough grade at a reduction of more than 50 percent in costs, according to the governor’s office. A second contract would pave the road and complete the project for motorists to use. The coal synergy concept reduces road building costs substantially by using the coal companies’ larger-scale earth moving equipment and construction techniques to prepare the road bed to rough grade, thus allowing the companies to recover marketable coal reserves during the road bed preparation, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. In the meantime, construction also continues on phase one of the Route 610/Route 460 Phase I Connector project and the bridges that will be over Grassy Creek and Route 610, or Grassy Creek Road. The phase one project is scheduled for completion in
the summer of 2015. Also in Buchanan County, construction continues on phase three of the U.S. Route 460 widening project. Co. The third phase of the Route 460 widening project began in the spring of 2011 at a cost of $23.3 million. It is scheduled for completion in April 2014. The 1.18 mile project extends from Route 615 to Royal Center. It is scheduled for completion in April 2014. When both phases II and III are completed, the four-laning of Route 460 from Claypool Hill in Tazewell County to Grundy in Buchanan County will be completed. The road widening projects are indirectly tied to the recently completed multi-million dollar flood-control project in Grundy. More than 75 families, non-profit organizations and businesses were recently relocated to the new redevelopment site across the Levisa River. A Walmart supercenter, and other adjoining businesses, are now open for business at the new Grundy Town Center. Several road and bridge construction projects also are continuing in Tazewell County. A bride repair project on Route 61 in Tazewell County, which is located four miles west of the Bland/Tazewell county line near Clear Fork
Creek, is slated for completion this November. Also in Tazewell County,
repairs to a bridge located over the Clinch River are continuing, but should be com-
pleted in April 2014. — Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org
10 Section VI Sunday, September 29, 2013
Flooding woes continue to plague Stafford Drive By CHARLES OWENS and GREG JORDAN Bluefield Daily Telegraph RINCETON — As far back as most folks can remember, flooding has been a problem for the city of Princeton. But commercial growth combined with heavier traffic p a t t e rns have complicated chronic flooding woes along Stafford Drive in recent years. And it’s not uncommon during periods of heavy rain for traffic to be diverted, or detoured away, from the statemaintained corridor. Many businesses and homes in the area also are impacted by high water. For example, residents of Princeton and Lazenby avenues as well as the Mercer County Senior Center on Trent Street have been dealing with flooding problems for years. Officials with the senior center often have had to resort to putting sandbags at their doors during storms to prevent water from seeping into their lobby. But that could all change in the not too distant future. While city officials were initially planning to award a bid for the engineering phase of the project in late summer, those plans were put on hold earlier this month when officials learned that a government agency was already planning a study of Brush Creek, the waterway running through the Stafford Drive area. Michael Saffel, director of the Princeton Sanitary Board, said the Southern Soil Conservation District and the National Resources Conservation Service are scheduling the study. “They are in the planning stages of doing an analysis of B rush Creek,” Saffel said in an interview earlier this month with the Daily Telegraph. “I guess it hasn’t been done in many years.” Silt and vegetation has built up along the creek, limiting how much water can move through it at one time. “Those two in conjunction are choking off Brush Creek,” Saffel said. The study will not focus on Stafford Drive’s flooding
Staff photos by Jon Bolt
High water... Vehicles ford the flood waters rising from the drainage ditches along Stafford Drive in Princeton. Bedeviled by drainage difficulties, Stafford Drive and surrounding areas remain one of the most frequently flooded in the area.
issues, but it could impact the problem by showing how water could flow through the creek more efficiently, Saffell said. Minimizing the flooding on Brush Creek could, in turn, help reduce the flooding problems on Stafford Drive. Bids were opened on the engineering phase of the project in July, and city council members met July 29 with the five firms that submitted bids. The meeting with the contractors was suggested by newly elected city council members Jim Harvey and Jacqueline “Jackie” Rucker, who suggested that hearing from the engineering firm’s representatives would help them make a decision. The Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to the city earlier this year. However, city council is still searching for an additional $250,000 in matching funds needed to complete the actual project construction. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, DW.Va., asked a number of state and federal officials earlier this year to help the city with
the flooding problem, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Services, the West Virginia Conservation Agency and the West Virginia Office of Emergency Services. The city also continues to seek Small Cities Block Grant funding for the project. Five prior Small Cities Block Grant applications submitted by the city were rejected. A sixth grant application was submitted earlier this summer. Tragedy was narrowly averted in January of this year when an SUV carrying a woman and a child was submerged under water in Princeton near the Athens Crossroads — an area located a few miles past Stafford Drive. Heavy rain had swollen the creek running alongside the supermarket parking lot at the Athens Crossroads when the SUV suddenly went into the water. A child and woman were rescued from the vehicle. — Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com
Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 11
Funding... Continued from 3 could be utilized by public entities or private businesses, according to the preliminary project proposal. Another part of the master plan includes the addition of a climbing wall and an observation platform from which visitors could view the neighboring Norfolk Southern rail yards. Such an observation center for out of town visitors to view the city’s historic rail yards has long been requested by some in the city. State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox awarded the city $120,000 in toll-revenue tax credits in 2012 to help offset local matching fund requirements for the Colonial Intermodal Center project. The approval of the toll-revenue tax credits allowed the city to expedite the drawdown of the $600,000 in federal funds secured in 2009 by Rahall for the engineering and design of the project. Those federal funds required a $120,000 match in local dollars. The idea for the intermodal center actually dates back to 2007 when a group of local citizens got together to come up with ways to promote economic development in the area. The idea was then presented to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Rahall’s office offered to help, but asked the city to come up with a specific project idea for them to help fund. City officials said similar transportation projects in Beckley and Huntington led to the form ation of the Colonial I n t e rmodal Center concept. — Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff photo by Eric DiNovo
The signs say... A local resident reads the historical information on the signs on the Railroad and Coal Heritage Interpretive Walkway at Roundhouse Square in Bluefield.
14 Section VI Sunday, September 29, 2013
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Sunday, September 29, 2013 Section VI 15
McDowell County begins to focus on tourism projects By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph ELCH — Hoping to capitalize upon a growing volume of out-of-town ATV visitors, officials in McDowell County are putting a renewed focus on tourism-related projects. Many of the off-road visitors in the county are riding the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, including the popular Indian Ridge Trail system near Ashland. A resort and campground site in the area has added to the popularity of the system. And a second Hatfield-McCoy Trail system that aims to link the cities of War, Welch and Gary is expected to increase ATV traffic in the county. “We are kind of focusing on the tourism aspect and getting people here,” Peni
Adams, county economic development director, said. “It will get folks in here and let them see the other opportunities that are in the county for outdoor entertainment.” Along those lines a group of interns have been working in the county over the summer to help develop a McDowell County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The EDA office also is still working to try to attract a national chain hotel or motel into the county. Adams said officials are also working to develop a driving tour of McDowell County that highlights historical areas and local attractions. “We are all kind of trying to think tourism related,” she said. “And we don’t have anything in this county that shows sort of the historical places, and things on the
map. So we’ve gotten a grant through the Coal Heritage Authority to design and develop what we are going to call a driving tour of McDowell County. And that should be done by the end of September. It will have your lodging and all of your historical places you need to visit.” In the meantime, Adams said officials are hoping more entrepreneurs will develop lodging and housing sites in the county for the out-of-town visitors. The county currently has 12 lodging facilities, including two motels, a campground and several bed and breakfast facilities. But beyond tourism, other economic development efforts continue in the county. Adams said officials are also planning for the first McDowell County Expo to be
held on Oct. 4 and 5 in connection with the ongoing Reconnecting McDowell campaign. “We are mirroring it kind of like the Bluefield Better Living Show and the Woman’s Expo,” she said. “It will be a nice, high-quality event for McDowell County agencies, or anyone that wants to come in and let people know what’s going on in McDowell County.” Adams said county officials also are still working toward raising the funding necessary to complete an expansion project planned at the Stevens Correctional Center in Welch. The expansion project will allow the county-managed correctional center to house 144 additional state inmates. Adams said the county is
working to finance the $4 million project. A structure located behind the prison that once housed the nursing quarters at the old Stevens Clinic hospital would be renovated to help hold additional inmates. The building was recently acquired by the EDA. The old hospital located just off of U.S. Route 52 in Welch was converted into a prison by the county in 2006. The facility can currently hold about 322 inmates at one time. The prison employs about 150 people. Adams said the county also is continuing to work on the restoration of the old Houston Company Store in Kimball. The project includes the development of a coal heritage museum inside of the structure. Also in Kimball, Adams said the county is con-
tinuing to market the old Superior Wells site. “Before they even put it on the market, we had someone who was interested in it,” Adams said. A new health care facility also opened in the county during the summer. Adams said Family Health Care Associates out of Wyoming County purchased the old H.C. Lewis building at Coney Island in Welch, and renovated the structure into a new family health clinic. Also in Welch, Adams said a project to extend water and sewer to the Indian Ridge Industrial Park has entered the second phase of construction. She said officials continue to show property at the industrial park to interested parties. — Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com
Plans still underway for multi-purpose center in Mercer County By CHARLES OWENS Bluefield Daily Telegraph PRINCETON — A longplanned multi-purpose center for Mercer County is still on a slow path toward reality. The list of potential sites for the development is now down to three, according to Mercer County Development Authority Director Janet Bailey. Stafford Consultants is currently working to finalize a site analysis report for the three proposed sites, which will be presented to the full development authority board in September. The three sites include two pieces of property near Exit 14 in Mercer County, and the Le a t h e rwood property that extends between Mercer and Tazewell counties. “The next board meeting won’t be until September,” Bailey said. “We hope they will be able to provide some type of analysis (at the September meeting) as to which site to move forward with.” Bailey said the Exit 14 site has long been considered for the project. The Leatherwood site in return — if ultimately chosen — would allow officials to utilize an Appalachian
Compact agreement negotiated years ago back when Joe Manchin and Tim Kaine were the respective governors of West Virginia and Vi r g i n i a . Both Manchin and Kaine are now U.S. senators. “I think Exit 14 is probably still the best site to go with,” Bailey said. “That’s what I kind of feel like this analysis will show. The Leatherwood site would take the project into both Virginia and West Vi r g i n i a . ” If a positive report is provided in September, the next step would be finding additional funding for the project. Bailey said that includes everything from grant funding and budget digest dollars to assistance from private partners and local foundations. The multi-purpose center is currently envisioned as a 54,000-square foot facility with an arena, barns and outbuildings for an equestrian component. The project — once referred to as an equestrian center — is now envisioned as a multi-purpose facility capable of housing festivals, conventions, county fairs, local and national conventions and equestrian functions. The idea of the eques-
trian park, and now the multipurpose center, dates back to 2006. And discussions about such a concept began in 2004. The first committee wasn’t formed until 2006. As currently envisioned, the multi-purpose center could be utilized for everything from equestrian events to the annual coal show. At the moment, the National Guard Armory in Brushfork is the only facility in Mercer County capable of handling such large gatherings. The multipurpose center would be larger than the arm o ry. However, the delay in moving the development forward has largely centered around finding a suitable site for such a project. The development authority and multipurpose center committee are seeking a site with at least 400 acres of land for the proposed development. At one point, seven different sites were under consideration for the multi-purpose center. Regardless of which site is ultimately selected, Bailey said officials believe that additional growth, including hotels, motels and restaurants, would follow such a large-scale multi-purpose
center. The equestrian park was originally proposed as a joint venture between the county commission, the city of Bluefield and the city of Princeton. It was originally proposed on property jointly owned by the two cities. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later ruled that the property in question would not work for the equestrian park because it was located within the flood plain. The two cities are not directly involved in the new proposal. An updated market and financial analysis report on the proposed multi-use center was presented to the development authority in 2012 by Susan Sieger, president of Crossroads Consulting Services. The summary of the analysis report showed the market demand is still strong and that equine activity still represents a growing market for the region. The updated market report also found the project still presents a unique opportunity to generate significant economic activity to the local and state economy, as well as resulting tax revenue for the jurisdictions, Bailey said.
Bailey said the multi-use center — and its equestrian component — has the potential to attract visitors to the region while also serving as a
catalyst for additional economic development and recreational opportunities. — Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org