PARSONS, W.Va. – As I reported earlier today, this is the last day for citizens to comment on the proposed, unfinished stretch of Corridor H in Tucker County, a highway eventually designated to run from the Washington, D.C. area and terminating at I-79 in Weston, W.Va. The section in question is to run from Parsons, the Tucker County seat, up the mountain, through Blackwater Falls State Park and between the villages of Thomas and Davis, destroying their history and charm.
Residents and activists in the area, such as Friends of Blackwater, are supporting an alternative northern route that would save the state park, the two towns, and numerous schools and businesses from unnecessary destruction. Learn more about the WVDOT plan, as well as additional and valuable information about the alternate route from the Friends of Blackwater here.
To say that the state’s decision is a head-scratcher is an understatement.
Thomas and Davis are in eastern Tucker County, extending into the state’s eastern panhandle and its unmatched beauty. Blackwater Falls is a legacy park in the West Virginia State Park system. It came about through a desire to restore the natural beauty of the region, which had been decimated by timber and coal companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It became Blackwater Falls State Park in 1937, and through a series of additional purchases, planning and finally construction, was opened on January 5, 1957. Ironically, the State Road Commission built the first roads into the park in the early 1930s.
During the 1960s, the state parks provided a nearby destination for virtually every West Virginian to enjoy. The parks, though always welcoming to out-of-state visitors, were also designed to allow the citizens of West Virginia unique opportunities to seek refuge in nature. They were maintained and treated as sacred spots. That’s why it is so puzzling that the West Virginia Department of Transportation would plan to build a portion of a four-lane road through Blackwater Falls State Park.
It’s puzzling, but not surprising. West Virginia took our house when I was 18 through eminent domain to build a connecting road to Rt. 50 in Clarksburg. When my parents had to “negotiate” with the state for a fair deal for our homestead, I was convinced our mom was going to have a heart attack because of the downright mean-spirited attitude of the state’s representatives.
That’s when I moved out of state the first time. But before that, I spent a good bit of my childhood in the very area where this stretch of Corridor H is to be built.
Though born in Clarksburg, Sunday drives to visit with my great uncle and aunt in Parsons were common and highly anticipated. So were week-long summertime stays. They owned Parsons News & Novelty, which among other things, had rows upon rows of candy bars and orange pop. Their back yard was an enormous natural playground, with the Blackfork River at its back edge. Aunt Lorraine – a World War II WAC – would guide the three of us across the short but swift river, all of us in tennis shoes and using walking sticks.
From their home, we would all pile into the car and make the short trip up the mountain to Blackwater Falls State Park, trips that our family continues to make to this day. In fact, the West Virginia State Park system spoiled me. On my first trip to Grandfather’s Mountain in North Carolina, I was stunned to find that I had to pay to get in, which I refused to do. In West Virginia, I learned, the natural world is for all to enjoy.
A lot has changed in that roughly 50 years, but building a highway through Blackwater State Park is still inconceivable. But again, I should not be surprised. Whatever the reason for planning the current proposed route, it’s a horrible idea. It is an assault upon the very land the road is designed to bring people to. So, I’m with those supporting an alternative northern route. I won’t hold my breath though, as it seems that nothing is sacred anymore, especially in West Virginia
© Micheal Barrick, 2022.
Messing up Blackwater Falls and the towns of Davis and Thomas is stupid enough to make a preacher cuss. (which I’ve been doing.) Rev. Rose
Let’s keep writing and talking and vote with our feet when necessary. Picket lines are sometimes needed. The Blackwater Canyon has been and will continue to be a top priority, a gift to be enjoyed and protected. Duane Nichols, CLEAR