Take A Journey Through History Down Scenic Route 39
Marlinton, WV – It’s a road that spans five counties and two states and takes in a lot of history along the way. It’s the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway, also known as US Route 39.
At a gathering at the Pocahontas Opera House in Marlinton last Friday, several county representatives and West Virginia 3rd District Congressman Nick Rahall met to kick off the marketing campaign to promote the new byway.
The idea of designating Route 39 as a scenic byway originated with the Marlinton business association. Soon, other localities became interested in being part of the byway. It now weaves its way through parts of Rockbridge and Bath Counties in Virginia, and Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties in West Virginia, starting with the city of Lexington and ending at Summersville Lake.
Jean Clark of the Lexington & Rockbridge Area Tourism Development office explains how Lexington became part of the Byway.
“Well, when we were approached by, at the time it was Gail Lowry with the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau; she stopped by my office one day, and she says you know we’re thinking about this project” says Clark. “And for us it’s natural because the eastern end of the Byway is sort of the connector to the millions of people who live on the east coast and funnel their way down the valley of Virginia and west. And so for us it was natural connection.”
Pocahontas County businesswoman Robin Mutscheller has been with the project almost since the beginning.
“Yes I have” she says. “I attended some of the original meetings and was working on it with the [Marlinton] business association for a very long time.”
The Marlinton Train Depot is slated to be an information center for the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway. Mutscheller says reconstruction of the depot, destroyed in a 2008 fire, should begin later this spring.
Keith Spangler of the Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau in Nicolas County says he’s the new kid on the block.
“I’ve been in my position for about a year and a half now, so the project was already underway” he says. “But I think it’s a fantastic project for everywhere between Lexington and Summersville. Route 39, it’s a beautiful Byway, Scenic drive and it has a lot of potential.”
Grant funding, along with matching funds from various localities along the route, paid for the marketing materials which include a multi page brochure and an eye catching video tour from one end of the Byway to the other. Congressman Rahall, now the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would like to see the Appalachian Waters Byway granted national status. But he admits that could be a uphill battle in the current congressional climate.
“Well, we will have to fend off attacks, there’s no doubt about it” says Rahall “when we get around to reauthorizing a robust transportation reauthorization bill. They changed the rules now so that if we find financing for the Highway Trust Fund, there’s no ironclad guarantee that it will go back into transportation spending.”
For now, you can take a visual tour of the Appalachian Waters Byway by visiting www.Scenic39.com. There you’ll find a list of attractions, and where to eat and stay on your trip along the Appalachian Waters Byway.