Cass naturalist mixes history with nature

Slaty Fork native Kailey Price became the naturalist at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park last year. Price has spent her time at the park organizing programs and adding new activities for visitors to enjoy. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

What makes Cass Scenic Railroad State Park so unique is its mix of history and nature. For naturalist Kailey Price, that means finding ways to combine typical state park style programs with the historical significance of trains and logging industry.

“It was a huge history lesson,” Price said when she began her job two years ago. “I definitely know a lot more than I did last year. I’m just adding on to what I know now.”

Price went to school for ecotourism and adventure travel – never expecting she would work at a state park – until she took one particular class.

“That was interpretive guide techniques, and it was all about interpreting nature and history for guests who visit parks just like this one,” she said. “I took a really big interest in it.”

As a native of Slaty Fork, Price knew that Pocahontas County had a variety of jobs in her field of study, but she didn’t plan to return. Soon, though, the county called her back.

“I lived in Charleston, and worked in the New River Gorge area for a few years, guiding,” she said “Then I met my husband [Nathan], and he used to come here all the time as a kid, and he really wanted to come back. So we just moved back about two years ago. It’s been really nice.”

An added bonus for Price was learning her family had a history with Cass, as well.

“I’m originally from Slaty Fork, but my grandmother was born here, and my great-grandfather was actually a brakeman on the train when the Mower Lumber Company was in operation,” she said. “What’s funny is, I knew my grandmother was born in Pocahontas County – but I didn’t realize it was here.”

As the naturalist at Cass, Price is involved in organizing evening events, large celebrations, as well as day-to-day activities like walking tours of the town.

“Evening programs – it can be anything from a nature walk to a craft to something around the campfire,” she said. “I also put together all the bigger events like Logging Days, Harvest Day, Halloween and Christmas. I do some general stuff around here at the park, too, like guided town tours and movie presentations on the history.”

Price is always adding to her list of programs and hopes to expand on what people can do while they are in Cass.

“The state parks have this opportunity for children that’s called Young People for Parks, or YPP,” she said. “Children come, and they take three learning-based programs with you. If they go through the three courses with you, they earn a certificate and a patch. We’re a little bit of a different park. I’ve been working on developing just a Cass booklet because we’re train-based and history-based, and the other parks are more nature-based.”

The summer is filled with events ranging from guided hikes to visiting artist programs to craft projects. Price keeps a list of events at the Visitor Center beside the Cass Company Store, as well as online at

Upcoming events

July 12 – Eco-trek hike.

July 13 – Firefly hike and Irish Road Bowling.

July 12-13 – Scout and Explorer weekend.

July 19 – Bil Lepp, West Virginia Story Teller.

July 20 – National Moth Week.

July 26 – Make and take painting class.

August 3 – Owl prowl hike.

August 15-17 – Quilter’s Retreat.

August 17 – Appalachian Heritage Day.

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