Terry Hackney has made his last trip across Route 150 for the year. Hackney was commissioned by the United States Forest Service to help create and install new signs along the Highland Scenic Highway detailing the area’s unique biology and history with words, photos and illustrations. Hackney spent last Monday and Tuesday at Mill Point Prison and Honeycomb Rocks installing the final round of interpretive overview markers.
“We’re placing seventy-six interpretive markers across the forty-three miles of the Highland Scenic Highway,” he explained, “which goes from Richwood up to Elk Mountain.”
According to Hackney, each of the markers will follow a theme outlined in the Highland Scenic Highway Corridor Management plan and will detail a variety of information, including botanical discussions, conservation issues, the resiliency of the Monongahela National Forest and the history of certain areas.
“Interpretation is giving the reader a sense of place to the resource,” Hackney said. “Rather than just being informative, these markers will bring information to a more personal level by provoking thought, possibly action. They’re meant to provoke – not in a bad way – and to get people to think and to feel a sense of ownership. Interpretation is so much more than just relaying information. It’s both an art and a science.”
Hackney first began working on the project in the summer of 2013. The United States Forest Service had put out a request for bid to design, build and install 76 interpretive markers and five informational kiosks along the Highland Scenic Highway, as well as other nearby points of interest. Hackney’s Lens Creek Studios, located in Fort Ashby, was one of the companies to place a bid.
“We were the successful bidder,” he said. “We were supposed to work with them on a website, but the scope of the work changed. Rather than build the Forest Service a website, we ended up creating more markers for them.”
Due to the shift in the project’s focus, Hackney and his team were able to place markers at locations that had not been previously included in the project – such as Mill Point Prison, a minimum-security federal prison camp for moonshiners and World War II conscientious objectors, among other nonviolent offenders.
“The reason for the project was interpretation had been done across the Scenic Highway off and on for a number of years,” he explained. “With the previous interpretation, there was such a disconnect between different places that people didn’t know that the Scenic Highway went from Richwood to Elk Mountain.”
The Highland Scenic Highway stretches the 22 miles from the Cranberry Nature Center, across Route 150 toward Slaty Fork. However, what many do not know is that the Scenic Highway actually includes the stretch of Route 39 from Richwood to its junction with Route 150, across from the Cranberry Nature Center.
“A lot of different interpretation happened over the last twenty to thirty years,” Hackney added. “The markers had totally different looks, and none of them said ‘Highland Scenic Highway,’ so people didn’t actually realize that the Cranberry Glades and the Falls of Hills Creek were on the Scenic Highway.”
In order to create uniform markers, Hackney and 13 teammates came together to produce a set of design guidelines – including color scheme, font, size and the placement of design elements – that any future marker[s] will conform to. Fellow teammate and AmeriCorps member Molly Swailes was responsible for the artwork, while Hackney’s wife, Jodi Burnsworth, and historian, author and former Monongahela National Forest archaeologist Hunter Lesser produced the text for each sign.
Hackney will design and build five informational kiosks during the winter and install them along the Scenic Highway next spring. Four of the larger kiosks will be installed at the Gauley Ranger Station, the Falls of Hills Creek, the Cranberry Nature Center and the Cranberry Glades, while the small kiosk will be placed at Tea Creek campground.
“There’s a little kiosk there currently,” he said, “but it’s way outdated. That will come out completely, and the new kiosk will go in. It will talk about the Tea Creek Mountain trail system, as well as the people who inhabited the area, such as the Hammons family.”
In addition to the interpretive markers and kiosks, Hackney and Burnsworth created “43 Miles of Discovery” – an audio tour featuring 19 tracks that correspond with each stop along the Scenic Highway.
“What they get is stories about each place told by people who have lived and worked there and are talking about it,” Hackney explained. “You get a lot of hunting and fishing stories, people talking about funny things that happened at the point, or you get somebody talking about the history of a place.”
Hackney and Burnsworth interviewed 35 people – ranging from members of the community to those involved with forest service, such as forest biologists and DNR personnel – in informal settings, which allowed Hackney to revisit each interview and piece together each track with appropriate, corresponding excerpts.
“Say you’re a wildlife biologist,” he said, “and you talk about the flying squirrel. I can go back into the recording, and if a part might work in the Cranberry Glades, I can put those excerpts in different tracks. The informal setting allows me to edit that and put it anywhere.”
“43 Miles to Discovery” is available on a donation basis at the Marlinton Ranger Station, the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the Gauley Ranger Station and Richwood Convention and Visitors Bureau in Richwood. Hackney has been making signs for years.
“I’ve done a bunch of different jobs over the years,” he said. “I’ve worked in your average, regular sign business for a while making signs for restaurants and car lots. What got me into interpretive markers was when I worked for the State of West Virginia as the site supervisor at Camp Washington Carver down in Fayette County.”
During his time there, Hackney worked on a number of cultural and historical maps and exhibits, including the renovation and installation of the coal display at Chief Logan State Park. It was while he was at Camp Washington Carver that Hackney realized his talent for design and interpretation.
From there, he began working for AmeriCorps in 2010, where he served the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area and helped create Civil War trail and site markers to be placed throughout Randolph and Pocahontas counties, including Huntersville, Minnehaha Springs and Bartow.
“I’ve been doing this for about three and a half, four years now,” Hackney said, “and the Highland Scenic Highway project has been a privilege.”