Home / Business / Mining for tourists? Parts of Appalachia demeanour to past for tourism future; ‘it’s not a …

Mining for tourists? Parts of Appalachia demeanour to past for tourism future; ‘it’s not a …

Mines built this association town. Could vines — a booze grapes flourishing on a former frame cave in a hills above — assistance to pull visitors here?

Jack and Sandra Looney certain wish so.

Their Highland Winery — housed in a lovingly restored, mustard-yellow “company store” — pays reverence to coal-mining’s story here, as do their signature wines: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

“The Coal Miner’s Blood sells some-more than any of them,” Jack Looney says of a honeyed red.

He and his mom have converted a store’s second and third floors into a bed and breakfast. They’ve also bought and easy a integrate dozen of a aged spark association houses as rentals, and bedrooms fill adult during their annual open Miner’s Memorial Festival.

Seco, like so many Central Appalachian communities, owes a existence to spark — a unequivocally name an acronym for South East Coal Company. But as mining wanes, officials opposite a segment are looking for something to reinstate a normal jobs and revenues.

In some of a poorest, many remote counties, about a usually choice people can come adult with is tourism — eco-, adventure, or, as with a Looneys, chronological and cultural. There are mining museums, festivals, forest adventures. Sub-regions have been rechristened with alluring names like a Hatfield-McCoy Mountains or a PA Wilds.

Will it work? Proponents indicate to a region’s assets, a healthy beauty, a particular towering impression — and characters (like a feuding Hatfields and McCoys). But others note a paradoxes: Environmental plunge alongside untried areas, a story of bad preparation that for decades didn’t obviate high-paying jobs, an away-from-it-all feel partly caused by a miss of good roads and other infrastructure.

There’s a opening between desires and infrastructure in many areas anticipating to rise tourism, says University of Tennessee researcher Tim Ezzell. “We have village colleges that will learn we to be an X-ray tech, though they don’t have culinary arts,” he said.

For all though a propitious few places with both resources and access, new studies and spending information suggest, tourism might be a indeterminate savior.

“It’s kind of unequivocally peculiar that mercantile practitioners pull tourism to be a propulsive attention when it has such low wages,” says Suzanne Gallaway, an accessory highbrow during a University of North Carolina-Greensboro

“It’s not a panacea,” adds tourism consultant Carole Morris. “It’s not going to be that cure-all.”

Appalachia covers 205,000 block miles, encompassing 420 counties in 13 states, from northeast Mississippi to southwest New York, according to a central clarification offering by a Appalachian Regional Commission. West Virginia is a usually state unconditionally included.

The segment includes many cities and has a operation of industries. But many areas in Central Appalachia are during an mercantile crossroads, as mining and logging give approach to services jobs.

Sociologist Rebecca Scott, author of a book on mountaintop dismissal in her internal West Virginia, says, “It’s critical to unequivocally indicate out a conditions of a state being held between a condition of being an descent economy, a scapegoat zone, and nonetheless carrying many of a arrange of long-term successes in tourism being around nature-based tourism. we consider that it’s a unequivocally large contradiction.”

Gallaway, who did her doctoral topic on tourism growth in a region, found that while tourism and liberality accounted for 16 percent of all jobs in a region, those sectors constructed usually 7 percent of a wages.

“I consider tourism can always be partial of a different economy,” says Gallaway, who teaches during UNCG’s Bryan School for Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality. “But we wouldn’t put all of my eggs in that basket, no matter who we are.”

A demeanour during some tourism initiatives around a segment shows hurdles as good as successes.


A 2012 news collected for a Mountain State’s Division of Tourism found that spending and liberality practice have been delayed to grow in many counties.

A vivid difference was Harrison County, where approach tourism spending has some-more than doubled given 2004 — to $142 million — and liberality practice has increasing by some-more than 50 percent. But those numbers can be deceiving.

Many bedrooms in a area’s hotels are being assigned by workers drilling in a circuitously Marcellus shale formation, as spark has been transposed by hydraulic fracturing to remove healthy gas, says county elect boss Ron Watson.

According to a mercantile report, tourism-related jobs in a Hatfield-McCoy Mountains — a selling tag for a cluster of coal-producing counties — indeed forsaken from 1,400 to 1,300 from 2004 to 2012.

Another area that includes a New River Gorge and a Greenbrier review strew 700 tourism-related jobs during a period, a news shows.


Morris, who was conduct of informative tourism for a state of Kentucky before opening her possess consultancy, says there’s a excellent line between squashing commencement and enlivening siren dreams.

“I have frequency been in a place where tourism was impossible,” says Morris. “There’s always something interesting, something in a story of a village that brings people.”

Still, in places where tourism seemed reduction viable, she saw her pursuit as “managing those expectations.”

A few years ago, Morris common a $100,000 Appalachian Regional Commission extend to deliberate with several “distressed” counties. One of her clients was Forest County, Pennsylvania.

For generations, a county, dominated by a Allegheny National Forest, was a renouned vacation end for blue-collar workers, earning it a nickname “Pittsburgh’s playground.” But as production waned and tastes changed, Morris found, locals were left with a “tired product.”

Working with a consultants, a internal formulation organisation suggested a rebranding: Forest County would turn a “gateway” to a Lumber Heritage Region and a PA Wilds. The trick, Morris and group wrote in their movement plan, was for a county to stay “true to a birthright of ‘the place to get divided from it all,’ and honour a farming roots while relocating into a new marketplace for tourism.” The latter meant things as elementary as adding Wi-Fi and non-smoking rooms, and enlivening some-more businesses to take credit and withdraw cards.

“People do wish to get divided from it all,” a group wrote, “but visitors wish to stay connected if necessary.”


As environmentalists quarrel to strengthen areas not uneasy by mining, some longtime residents are perplexing to make a many of what a spark attention has left behind.

In a day, Lynch was a largest spark association city in a world, built by nobleman J.P. Morgan to yield coking spark for his U.S. Steel Corp. At a tallness in a 1940s, some-more than 10,000 people lived in a neat association houses that lined Kentucky 160 and snaked adult a surrounding hillsides.

Today, Lynch’s race hovers around 730. But Portal 31, a cave that helped fuel America’s postwar industrial renaissance, has been given new life.

Passing by a petrify archway surfaced by a difference “SAFETY THE FIRST CONSIDERATION,” visitors float a tiny sight several hundred feet into a bank as a beam and charcterised exhibits illustrate mining’s story here. Several strange association buildings have been restored. The sheet bureau is located in Lamp House No. 2, where miners collected to fill and light their carbide headlamps before commencement their shift. In 2010, a informal elect awarded a $240,000 extend to revive a aged Lynch firehouse.

Down a highway in Benham, built to use International Harvester’s spark mines, a former association store now houses a Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, including equipment from a personal collection of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” Loretta Lynn. The 1926 section propagandize opposite a highway is an motel that doubles as a training belligerent for a village college’s liberality government program.

Museum Curator Phyllis Sizemore says a muster cave saw a record series of visitors in July: 1,033. That’s not a lot, though Sizemore, who grew adult in a circuitously spark camp, says a value of some things can’t be totalled in dollars spent or names in a guest book.

“I don’t demeanour to tourism accurately as a savior,” says Sizemore, 62, a granddaughter, niece, sister and mom of miners. “I demeanour during preparation as a savior … We are doing both.”

Doing tourism in an unusual place, generally one that’s been bloody and forged up, is “an ascending battle,” says Gallaway.

No one knows that improved than Jack and Sandra Looney, whose winery lies in Letcher County, once a tip spark producer. Since 1988, a county has mislaid about 80 percent of a mining jobs.

When they bought it, a aged association store was small some-more than a shell. “So we had to reconstruct all a inside, put a roof behind on it,” says Jack Looney, whose father shopped there before violation his behind in a cave-in.

Then there was another large jump for a winery: Letcher County had been “dry” given a 1940s. So a Looneys researched state law, petitioned for a patrol opinion and won a right to furnish and sell alcohol.

Today, rows of vines line a aged frame cave during a conduct of No. 2 Hollow. French merlot plants have been grafted onto internal “possum grape” roots to assistance them adjust to internal soil.

“I have found out they grow good here on these mountaintop removals,” says Looney, who creates his vital building gas stations. “It’s genuine prohibited and balmy during a daytime, and breezy during a dusk time.”

The Looneys’ usually promotion is a billboard. Most of their trade comes from folks who’d changed divided — and some who stop by usually to see family names in an aged mining association bill unearthed during renovations.

More than a decade after renovations were completed, a winery and motel still have difficulty branch a profit. Looney says his construction business loaned a operation about $30,000 final year.

The integrate started a try as a approach to keep their daughter, Jean, who was study food scholarship during a University of Kentucky, in a mountains. She eventually started her possess vineyard with her father in Lexington.

Jack Looney still hasn’t given adult on Jean entrance behind to run things in Seco. If not, afterwards there are always a grandkids.

“Maybe somebody will before we get too aged to quit rowdiness with it.”

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