The Story
of the
Turnpike
Alliance

The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance was originally formed in the fall of 1994 to further preservation and promotion of related  historic sites in the area.

Over several years, a Corridor Management Plan was developed for the Turnpike. The final version was published in 2005.

New outdoor signs are currently being developed for the Turnpike - view the designs HERE and send your feedback to the Alliance.   

SPTA is a membership organization, with memberships starting at $10 per year. CONTACT US! to join, or contribute online here:


Those who are interested in helping to develop the Byway are invited to join our organizational email list. Write to SPTA-owner@yahoogroups.com.

The collaborative 21st Century effort for the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike arose out of several interrelated needs. One was the need to coordinate research, interpretation, and presentation of the related Civil War sites of the 1861 Mountain campaign, including the central Battle of Rich Mountain. In telling the story of Rich Mountain it is important to present the story in context of what happened before and after, to tell why the battle was fought where it was - for control of the Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike, and to show why it was significant.
 

Another need is to help encourage tourism to the area and to develop tourist destinations which will encourage visitors to stay longer. This is particularly important for some of the areas along the Pike, like the upper Greenbrier Valley of northern Pocahontas County, which have been struggling with lost jobs and economic decline. Also, by recognizing, preserving, and valuing the historic sites, local communities will find increased pride in their heritage and their locality, and come together in joint projects for the good of the community.


Research by Alliance members has helped identify the significance and the historic resources of the Turnpike. The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike was the primary historic transportation route connecting the upper Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River. The building of the road opened up much of western Virginia to settlement and development. The Civil War campaign fought for control of the Turnpike is nationally known as the campaign that brought General George McClellan to prominence, and that tarnished the reputation of Gen. Robert E. Lee. It was doubly significant in the formation of the state of West Virginia, both because the struggle to get this route built was an important component in the political dissension leading to the separation of western Virginia, and because military control of the turnpike and northwestern Virginia made statehood possible.

The most developed of the historic resources are the Civil War sites. Rich Mountain Battlefield, Cheat Summit Fort, Camp Allegheny, and the Beverly Historic District are interpreted and open to visitors, as is the related site at Philippi. Additional sites such as Camp Bartow and Elkwater are highly significant, and need better development.

The turnpike itself provides a valuable resource. In many cases it now follows the modern highway, and a few sections of the turnpike have been abandoned altogether, such as the section from Cheat Summit Fort to Red Run. But most of the remaining bypassed sections are now secondary roads, many of them still in gravel. Most notable of these are the section from Camp Allegheny to Bartow, and from Beverly over Rich Mountain to Buckhannon. Both of these are scenic, little developed roadways with excellent integrity to the early appearance of the turnpike and with strong Civil War associations. They offer a unique experience for the tourist looking for something genuine and unusual.. A number of historic homes and communities, many significant to later development along the pike, are currently unrecognized but have much potential to contribute to the overall story of the turnpike.


Our Statement of Purpose is:

The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance consists of individuals and independent organizations in  West Virginia who seek through public - private cooperation to:

  • Interpret the history of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and its connecting pikes;
  • Present the history and significance of the Civil War campaigns along the pikes;
  • Enhance the historic and scenic qualities of the land along the pikes;
  • Encourage low-impact heritage tourism for the area.

Original Partners active in the collaboration included:

  • Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation
  • Pocahontas County Tourism Commission
  • Randolph County Historical Society
  • Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Pocahontas County Historical Society and Civil War committee
  • Pocahontas Communications Cooperative
  • Barbour County Historical Commission
  • Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Lewis County, West Virginia
  • Monongahela National Forest
  • Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology
  • Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites
  • American Battlefield Protection Program
  • individual owners of historic sites on the turnpike

Throwing A Wider Net

Initially, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance (SPTA) was a collaboration of interested partners representing a variety of organizations, agencies, and individuals in Randolph and Pocahontas Counties, with discussion and participation from Highland County, Virginia. Each of these areas independently became interested in developing and connecting its historic sites, and the collaboration worked well to coordinate those efforts. Early support from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the Beirne Carter Foundation, the Benedum Foundation, and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service helped fund initial projects.

In preparing the Byway nomination, additional outreach was made to local and county governments, civic groups, and other stakeholders. To raise grassroots awareness and support, the SPTA held several public meetings to make direct contacts with groups who had not previously been involved.
Public meetings were held in four locations along the initial Byway – Durbin, Huttonsville, Beverly, and Coalton. Each of the goals was presented and comments collected from the participants about each area. Questions about the Byway and future plans were answered as well.

Expanding the Byway

The original CMP draft, and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance, strongly supported the designation of the entire Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in West Virginia as a West Virginia Byway, including both of the two counties already designated, and the continuation of the highway to Parkersburg. This includes the counties of Upshur, Lewis, Gilmer, Ritchie, Wirt, and Wood. Public meetings were held in Parkersburg, Smithville, and Buckhannon. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway west from Beverly to Parkersburg was nominated by the SPTA and by local leaders in the western counties and approved by the West Virginia Byways program in the summer of 2000. Thus the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway is now designated all the way across West Virginia.

Going National

Nomination of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike as a National Scenic Byway was highly recommended by staff and members. The historic qualities of this route had national significance in the settlement of the region; and major sections of the route retain exceptional integrity of their intrinsic quality resources. This designation will greatly strengthen the promotional appeal and the funding opportunities for the Byway. The staff and Governing Council began work to achieve this goal in 2004, and in 2005 the application and Corridor Management Plan were submitted for National review. In September 2005, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike was designated a National Scenic Byway.

Management Structure and Functions

The SPT Byway needs a management structure that will serve to coordinate and follow-through with the activities outlined in this plan. Such a structure should be strong and dynamic to provide leadership and manifest the Byway vision, while also providing the services and coordination needed. This organization should supplement and work with existing agencies and organizations without unnecessary duplication of administrative resources.

A formal non-profit corporation has now been established, which has benefits in being eligible to receive many more types of grants (including DOT Scenic Byways grants), in being able to receive tax-deductible contributions, and in having a formal accountable structure that is visible to its constituency. An independent organization, with its own bank account and staff, will be able to work more effectively across geographic lines and interest groups, will be more visible and more accountable, and potentially, much more effective.

The Alliance membership will include the contributing organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions that can be identified and who express interest in participating, as well as individual residents, landowners, business operators, users, and other stakeholders along the Byway. Full membership meetings once or twice a year will offer programs and reports on Byway efforts, and regular mailings or newsletters will keep members informed and in touch with activities.

Creating partnership with Virginia section of the Corridor

The historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike connected the upper Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Staunton with the Ohio River at Parkersburg. While the initial nomination of the SPT Byway was specific to the sections of the Turnpike in Pocahontas and Randolph Counties of West Virginia, throughout the work on this project the vision has included working towards a much more comprehensive treatment of the Turnpike and the region it served. By furthering outreach both across the geographic areas traversed by the turnpike, and linking with other area attractions that share common themes, a much more extensive, and exciting, tourism experience can be created.

The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike continues from the east end of the Byway at the West Virginia/Virginia state line, east along the Turnpike route through Monterey, Virginia, including the Civil War site at McDowell, and into Staunton. The Museum for American Frontier Culture in Staunton, a well-developed living history site that interprets early frontier culture up until the time of the building of the turnpike, can provide a key entry point for the tour. Beginning the Turnpike trail at its source in Staunton, and moving westward with the Pike into West Virginia, will not only add to the context of the Pike story, but will encourage movement of tourists along the route.

There are numerous other related historic sites in Staunton and along the turnpike. Additionally, the Civil War site at McDowell gives thematic continuity with the West Virginia Civil War sites, and both historically and geographically is the pivotal connection between the 1861 Mountain Campaign sites and the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign site.

Much work has already been done concerning the Turnpike in Virginia, including an impressive study of preservation strategies by the Valley Conservation Council, and a major project of trails and interpretation in McDowell County. In addition, McDowell battlefield is included in the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Heritage Area. McDowell is also included on the Virginia Civil War Trail, as is a sign interpreting Camp Allegheny in West Virginia.

The opportunities for working in conjunction with these efforts are tremendous. By drawing upon the larger population and travel numbers in Virginia, travelers along I81 at Staunton, and those already attracted to the Civil War sites in Virginia, we can encourage many of those visitors to continue further into West Virginia and offer them a unique experience.

Virginia and West Virginia promoters of the Turnpike can work together in dissemination of information, brochures, maps, and promotional materials; continuity in directions and interpretation; develop common logos and identity; and cooperative marketing. Designation of the Virginia sections of the Turnpike as Scenic Byway would greatly enhance this cooperation and benefit both states.
 

SPTA is a membership organization, with memberships starting at $10 per year. CONTACT US!
Those who are interested in helping to develop the Byway are invited to join our organizational email list. Write to
SPTA-owner@yahoogroups.com.