Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Corridor Management Plan Meeting
TOWN MEETING FOR PUBLIC INPUT - TAZEWELL COUNTY OF THE POCAHONTAS TRAIL Pocahontas - October 21, 2010
Greg Jones, Town of Pocahontas
Johnny Bell, Town of Pocahontas
Randy Rose, Virginia Tourism Corporation
Sally Rosh, Center for Christian Action
Thelma Moore, Resident of Pocahontas
James Moore, Resident of Pocahontas
Margie Douglass, Tazewell County Economic Dev. & Tourism Coordinator
Ginger Branton, Executive Director Richlands Area Chamber of Commerce
Below is the section of the Byway discussed in the Tazewell County meeting on Pocahontas.
Primary coal sites are noted on the map.
Those in attendance at the town meeting in Pocahontas talked at length about the historical significance of Pocahontas and its importance as the beginning of the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail. Discussions also addressed the fact that Pocahontas was the connector to the Coal Heritage Trail of West Virginia and the site of the only exhibition min in either state. Pocahontas Mine & Museum is designated a National Historic Landmark and is Virginia's Official Coal Heritage Museum.
Recommendations for the Exhibition Mine Museum:
Redo the Exhibition Mine Museum with more modern interactive displays and better lighting. Include information and displays on both railroad and coal.
Use this site as the primary staging area for the byway.
Expand the displays to include information about the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail.
Each county could develop their own displays that best reflects the byway offerings and unique features a visitor will find when traveling through that particular county.
Displays could be designed in such a way as to be movable.
During the months of January - February when tourism tends to be the slowest due to inclement weather, the displays sould be set up at Travel Shows and high traffic areas to create greater awareness and promote increased visitation during the Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Include an extensive gift shop that sells t-shirts, signage, miner hats, and other coal and railroad memorabilia.
Also recommend a small cafe' be added that offers refreshments, small sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Cleanliness throughout the buildings and in particularly the bathroooms has been noted as "very important" to travelers when surveyed as to overall satisfaction at an attraction.
Offer an RV park and camping area nearby and easy turn radius for large commercial buses and RV campers both at the campsite and the museum.
Recommendations for the Pocahontas Company Store:
The Company Store would serve as the primary staging area for downtown Pocahontas.
Brochures, information and displays should focus on the history of Pocahontas, the first coal camp and how it rose to national prominence n the late 1880s during the coal boom.
Both walking and driving tours would start from this location.
It is also strongly recommended that a downtown historic walking tour be developed which starts at the Pocahontas Company Store.(For more on this, see Chapter VII: Walking/Driving Tours)
Some of the recommended sites include, but are not limited, to:
Company Store (being resurrected - see Hill Studio Concept Plans)
Copmany Office Building (now a college)
A number of company houses
Butt's Casket Company where hundreds of caskets were made after a major mining accident although none of the caskets were ever used... just one of the many stories.
Pocahontas Fuel Co. Building
The courthouse is actually located below the Opera house which once attracted famous performers fromall over the world.
There are also discussions of possibly including a tour of the jail which is located in the basement of the building.
A downtown driving tour was also suggested using 1920's vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages. The passing of a law to allow golf carts on city streets opens the opportunity to offer this mode of transporation as well. A wagon ride was also suggested as it was noted that Pocahontas once had a number of stables.
The proposed passenger train connecting Pocahontas to Bramwell was addressed as well as some alternative transportation opportunities such as a trolley to connect the two towns together until the railroad track is replaced and the route reopened.
The trolleys could also be used as part of a driving tour for Pocahontas which includes the Exhibition Mine, the Mosque, the murals at the Catholic Church and the cemetery, as well as the downtown area.
Interesting side note about the Pocahontas Cemetery:
Nearly 90% of those in the cemetery are foreigners.
The Pocahontas cemetery also made it into "Ripley's Believe It or Not" for having more people buried in the cemetery that lived in the town.
Pocahontas has the potential to once again become a "destination" location due to its rich heritage, the exhibition mine, and the historic significance of the community. But to reach its true potential and, once again, become an economically viable tow, it has to provide visitor amenities such as lodging, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. An effort is underway to develop cabins in an area behind the depot. There is also a 10-12 lot trailer park currently in the process of shutting down that could possibly be converted into an RV park for visitors.
There are also plans to establish Pocahontas as a trailhead for numerous ATV trails as part of the Spearhead Trails initiative. Already downtown area allows both ATVs and golf carts on their streets and trails are in the process of being developed that will eventually connect with West Virginia's Hatfield & McCoy Trails. The high school is being converted into lodging for the trails and those visiting Pocahontas and the downstairs may become shops, offices a restaurant and possibly turn the school auditorium into a theater. (http://www.trailsrus.com/swvirginia/ for more on this.)
There are numerous historic buildings and homes in which a few of the rooms could be converted into bed and breakfasts. It was also suggested that a few of the churches could become hostels, providing additional lodging for scout groups, senior citizens, and others.
First and foremost, Pocahontas must focus on making itself visitor-ready both in what it offers and how it presents itself to those coming to the area.*
Resources: A CD on the oral history which includes an interview with Edna Drosick on Pocahontas. David Hill with Hill Studio, 120 West Campbell Ave.,SW, Roanoke, VA 24011. (540) 342-5263, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Jones, Pocahontas Town Manager, (276) 945-9522, email@example.com
*Please note: Hills Studio has recently conducted an in-depth analysis of downtown Pocahontas which includes recommendations for many of the historic structures. It is strongly suggested, as funds become available, as many of these improvements be made which will make the community much more "visitor-ready" and help to bring Pocahontas back to its original grandeur.
Signage was also discussed for the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail and how best to have it coordinate with the signage being used in West Virginia but at the same time, set apart. The consultant is recommending using the same diamond shape as West Virginia but selecting a different symbol and color scheme.
Coal Heritage Trail of West Virginia's color scheme is yellowish orange color. The color scheme recommended for the Virginia's Coal Heritage Trail is red, black and white.
Two symbol examples were provided and all seemed to agree the miner's helmet and pick provided a ver clean recognizable logo.
For more on uniform signage and creating a recognizable logo, see Chapter VII: Walking/Driving Tours and Chapter X: Marketing the Trail.
Side Note: The first Piggly Wiggly store in Virginia was opened in Wise, the second in Norton and the third near Haysi. Pocahontas and St. Paul also once had a Piggly Wiggly. It might be an interesting side story to find the locations of all the Piggly Wiggly's along the route and provide a little history about the first "self-service" grocery that originally started in Memphis, Tennessee in 1919 but quickly grew to eventually having over 2,660 stores with annual sales of over $180 million until, fearing a monopoly, the company was divided and sold to regional chains such as Safeway and Kroger.
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