The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau named Chuck Workman, right, as its 2019 Tourism Person of the Year at the CVB’s annual National Travel and Tourism Week luncheon. CVB board president George Murphy presented the award to Workman. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

As part of National Travel and Tourism Week, Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau held its annual luncheon to discuss what’s new and exciting in the tourism industry in the county.

It is also a time to celebrate the efforts of individuals and businesses who have made an impact on the county and the tourism industry.

CVB executive director Cara Rose announced that Chuck Workman, owner of Appalachian Sport, was named Tourism Person of the Year.

“He’s celebrating thirty years of business in this community and what an achievement that is,” Rose said. “With the conversion of the railroad to the Greenbrier River Trail, Chuck saw the opportunity for a new business in the town of Marlinton thirty years ago and over the past thirty years, the business has changed and grown, but the focus has remained recreation and sporting goods, providing the year-round needs of visitors and residents alike.”

Workman provides equipment for all seasons – hunting, fishing, biking, kaya- king and more. He also has lodging amenities above the store and cabin rental property.

In 1996, after the devastating flood, Workman relocated the business across from the intersection of Routes 219 and 39 and expanded it.

“In addition to operating a business largely revolving around the tourism industry in the county, Chuck has helped boost tourism events and opportunities in the town of Marlinton,” Rose said. “He’s been a resource for the Great Greenbrier River Race. In addition to offering rentals to participants, he also provides complimentary shuttle service the day of the race, and you can find him pulling boats down at Buckeye, as well.”

Workman also initiated a trout stocking project in which he ensures the streams of Pocahontas County are stocked and ready for fishing season.

“Chuck’s commitment to providing these services has enhanced the tourism experience for countless visitors and helped grow the tourism industry in Pocahontas County,” Rose said.

Monongahela National Forest District Ranger Cindy Sandeno gave a presentation on the new branding project called Mon Forest Towns – a new way for towns and counties in the Mon Forest to brand the recreational possibilities specific to their area.

“For the last six or seven years, the Monongahela National Forest has really been trying to figure out how to be a good neighbor,” Sandeno said. “So, we are about a million acres. We cover ten counties in West Virginia, and we haven’t always had the best relationships with our communities. I won’t say that we’ve had bad ones, but we’ve almost sort of been an absentee landowner. So, we’ve really been focused on stepping off of the forest, stepping into the communities and hearing a little bit about what people want from our national forest.”

To find ways to become more involved in the communities, Sandeno said the MNF had more than 60 public meetings in the 10 counties and brainstormed with residents about how the forest’s resources can better serve the communities.

“It’s definitely gotten to a point that is far beyond anything that we anticipated happening,” Sandeno said. “We’ve actually been able to grow this really wonderful collaboration of communities that are all very individual, very different, but they’re all working toward the same goals, and they have a lot of similarities.

“We’ve shifted into a role of trying to bring people together and see what those connections are and how we can move them forward… so we can all benefit economically, socially and environmentally.”

One of the larger projects involving all the counties is a map encompassing all the recreational stops, restaurants and businesses.

“WVU is really taking the lead on this, Sandeno explained. “We’ve got a GIS map that’s almost put together, and it’s basically of these ten counties where all these recreation sites are, so that ideally somebody would come, look at this map and if they wanted to start in Thomas and work all the way down to White Sulphur Springs, they could see all of the things that would be available to do, places to eat and all those types of things.”

Marlinton is one of the 11 towns included in the Mon Forest Towns. Along with being included in wider scope projects, Marlinton has had a few projects come to fruition with the help of the forest.

The forest service has been involved with the IMBA [International Mountain Bike Association] ride designation application and assisted with establishing a community fishing pier.

The forest service is also working with the town on the development of Discovery Junction, a green space beside the opera house.

It offered assistance in removing concrete from the space and ended up removing 22 dump truck loads to create a smoother starting point for the final project. They also provided information on what plant life and trees would be suitable for the areas landscaping.

The forest service assisted with the fishing pier behind Marlinton Elementary School. Prior to, children would fish from the one-lane Knapps Creek bridge near Pocahontas Center. Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation director Lauren Bennett was concerned about safety issues and approached the forest service for help in creating a fishing pier below the bridge.

“Working for the forest service, we have a pretty narrow mission and very few opportunities to work outside of national forest, but one of the places that we can do work is when it comes to watershed restoration – aquatic habitats and those types of things,” Sandeno said. “So, we worked on stabilizing the stream bank there. So, if you talk to me, I’m going to talk about the stream bank stabilization. If you talk to Lauren, she’s going to talk about a fishing pier.”

As the projects started coming into play and more plans were brewing, the Mon Forest Towns idea was growing. Sandeno said the forest service started doing surveys in the communities, and with the help of Doug Arbogast, the rural tourism specialist at West Virginia University, information was complied to create a logo which will be the face of the brand.

WVU graphic design professor Eve Faulkes came on board and held community meetings to get a feel for what symbols should be included in the logo. In the end, Faulkes created several variations of the logo, allowing each community to have its own identity inside the Mon Forest Towns brand.

The logo, which joins the towns under one identity, has a black bear above the words “Mon Forest Towns.” The Os are solid circles. It is within those three circles where individual symbols unique to each town will be placed.

Sandeno said the forest service was able to secure funding to provide one Mon Forest Towns sign for each of the eleven towns. If a town wants additional signage or other merchandise with the logo on it, the community or town would be responsible for the cost.

The CVB staff shared information on ways marketing the county as a tourism destination has increased the number of visitors and gave suggestions to businesses on how to connect to the CVB web presence to get more traffic.