The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail invites visitors to share the Vision of an evolving 324.62 mile network of rural roads through the heart of the Appalachian coalfields of southwest Virginia, anchored in a continuous route connecting seven coalfield counties bordering West Virginia and Kentucky. We wish to share our pride in our heritage with trvelers, students, and residents through National Scenic Byway Designation of the route.
As befitting a resource of national significance, the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail traveler will encounter evidence of natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combined to form a distinctive landscape arising from coal mining activitie as shaped by our geography. This experience is possible through coal camps to the present day mining techniques and sontrasting experiences of the chaning topography, as well as its historic communities, museums, and landmarks.
The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail seeks to preserve the heritage of Appalachian coalfields by capturing the heritage through oral histories an preservation of historic structures while offering travelers an insight into how coal began the industrialization of Southwest Virginia and the county. Our hope is that Trail travelers realize an appreciation of the sacrifices of ocal minters and their families in their efforts to mine the coal that is a primary energy source, as it fuels homes and factories while continuing to be an active and thriving industry.
The Trail will also allow travelers the opportunity to experience the diversity of our heritage and history brought by a diverse group of immigrants, ethnic groups, and religions. They can experience this culture through our food and music. The food, music and unique characteristics of the area will provide visitors with an experience unique to the Appalachian coalfields.
The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail will seek to provide opportunities by:
Working with West Virginia/Kentucky Byway efforts to benefit all parties.
Encouraging local entrepreneurship as a result of Byway efforts.
Additional promotion of sites already in place.
Preserving and promoting the music of the Coal.
Promoting the many published books on area coal history and heritage.
Encouraging practices that help preserve and protect our environment.
Increasing jobs and careers as a result of Byway and Coal.
Use educational opportunities to:
Promote Coal as a primary energy source.
Promote as an active and thriving industry.
Relay the evolution of the coal mining process (e.g. museums, promotional materials, byway stops and interpretive signage).
Encourage coal mining heritage and history withtin the school systems.
The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail will endeavor to turn weaknesses into opportunities by establishing Goals and Objectives to address the following:
Continuing or efforts in customer service training and enforcing trash laws to learn up along byway.
Offering opportunities for people traveling te byway to spend money here and not elsewhere.
Working with VDOT to budget spending to correct poor road conditions and development of new roads in the area.
Establishing byway signage to ease navigation of traveler to each site along the route.
Local governments planning and funding infrastructure and other needs along the Byway.
Developing user friendly promotional materials.
Ensuring state-of-the-art technology usage to negate the steriotype of perception of an area of poor economy, education, etc.
Local planning to maintain our rural, relaxing, and safe characteristics.
Ensuring adequate funding for this project.
Understanding that this Byway may not appeal to all or even a majority - this will be for the target market (especially in the initial years).
The ultimate gift of Virginia Coal Heritage Trail is one of connections between the past and the technological present; and among individuals who ackowledge and appreciate our heritage and the opportunity for self-guided travel along natural and historic pathways.
The map below shows the location of many of the coal towns that dotted Southwestern Virginia's landscape.(click on map for a larger version)
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