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Did you know Elkins-Randolph County is part of a National Heritage Area?

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as significant places that focus on nationally important stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. They are places where people live and work and because of this, efforts to conserve heritage are community driven. NHAs support natural resource conservation, historic preservation, recreation, educational projects and heritage tourism. As of 2022, there are 55 designated National Heritage Areas.

What is the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area?

The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area, designated by Congress in 2019, encompasses 16 counties in West Virginia and 2 in Maryland, including Randolph County, West Virginia. The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) celebrates the central Appalachian Forest in all its aspects – its history, culture, natural resources, and forest heritage.

What does this mean for you?

If our trees could talk, just think of the tales they could tell. They may not be able to, but we do our best to tell stories as old as the trees. There are opportunities around every corner to experience our unique Appalachian culture and reveal our story. Randolph County is filled with tales to be told of life, culture, and nature in the Appalachian Mountains. With a tale around every turn, weave your way through our mountains and communities and immerse yourself in our story.

Step back in time and imagine life in the late 1800s. Marvel at how settlers established a community for themselves when you visit the Swiss-German village of Helvetia, high in the Allegheny Mountains. The residents of Helvetia keep their traditions alive with various festivals throughout the year, including Fasnacht, a pre-Lenten masquerade ball with fatty foods, traditional music, and the burning of Old Man Winter. Try traditional Swiss fare at The Hutte Restaurant and chat with locals as you stroll through the town on life there in the past and present.

Meander your way down the mountain to the historic town of Beverly. Situated along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, Beverly was a bustling throughfare in its heyday. Stop into the Beverly Heritage Center to learn about the significant role the town played in the early days of the Civil War, as well as impactful local events such as the battle for the county seat. Plan your visit in October to catch a guided lantern tour and listen to a local historian tell accounts of life in Beverly throughout the centuries and spooky stories of reported paranormal activity in the historic buildings.

Spend time in Elkins at the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center, operated by AFNHA, to learn how the Monongahela National Forest shaped people’s lives and the region’s culture. Located in the same building as the Discovery Center, visit the West Virginia Railroad Museum (WVRRM) and browse the exhibit to engage with our railroad heritage. Elkins is a railroad community, built up after Senators Davis and Elkins brought tracks into town. The railroad still runs in our blood. Listen to current and retired railroaders share their firsthand experiences of working on the railroad on the WVRRM YouTube Channel. Experience the railroad for yourself and hop aboard the New Tygart Flyer excursion train that runs out of the historic Western Maryland Depot just down the rails.

Celebrate our Appalachian folklife, music, dance, and craft with The Augusta Heritage Center at their annual Augusta Festival held each summer or through their various programs hosted throughout the year.

And of course, we can’t forget about the Tale of the Trees. Included in the NHA is the expansive Monongahela National Forest. Spanning almost a million acres, it offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Wander along trails lined with towering trees and imagine the secrets they whisper as the wind rustles through the leaves. Stop into the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters to learn more about the national forest, how it was restored from intense logging operations, and how parts of it are still actively logged today. Visit Mower Tract to hike or bike through an area that is being rehabilitated from strip mining. Walk through the short interpretive trail at Gaudineer Scenic Area to see the stand of centuries-old virgin timber, the main characters in a tale of narrow escape from death by logging due to a surveying error. While appreciating the beauty that surrounds you, acknowledge the Indigenous People and their ties to this land we call home.

Our story is still unfolding, and we invite you to write yourself into it. We have no doubt you will leave with a good tale (or two!) to tell.

For more information on the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area, visit https://www.appalachianforestnha.org/.