POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (AP) – Every quilt has a story, and for some Mason County residents that story also is a tourism and business opportunity.
A group of Point Pleasant residents are developing a quilt trail through Mason County that will lead visitors to farms, businesses and historic locations across the county.
Each location on the trail is marked with a unique 8-foot-by-8-foot square, designed and painted by local residents, that represents the area’s historical or family significance.
“Our hope is that people will go out and do a kind of hide and seek or an Easter egg find with the quilt trail,” said Jackie Byars, coordinator for the Great Kanawha Resource Conservation and Development council.
Point Pleasant is the center of Mason County’s tourist industry, and the trail is a way to draw some of those visitors out to the rest of the county, said Dennis D. Bellamy, chairman of the Mason County Tourism Center.
Year round, history buffs visit the area for its Revolutionary and Civil War history, and fans of Mothman come for the paranormal aspect, Bellamy said. The Mothman is a creature reportedly seen in the Charleston and Point Pleasant areas in 1966-1967. Most observers described the Mothman as a winged man-sized creature with large reflective red eyes and large moth-like wings.
The Mason County Quilt Trail will offer visitors a way to explore some of the county’s hidden historical farms and homes and other treasures, he said.
Ohio is famous for its Amish, but not many people know Mason County also has an Amish community that sells furniture, food and other goods.
“It’s how you get people out this way,” Bellamy said. “People can hit the Amish community that is otherwise unpublicized.”
It’s also a business opportunity for many residents whose property is marked on the trail.
“The hope is people will open their own businesses stemming from the traffic the quilt trail generates,” Byars said. “When they have 50 or 100 people driving by every weekend, they would want to open something.”
Residents can set up corn mazes, or a roadside stand selling jams, pottery or fresh produce, Byars said.
It’s a way for residents to tap into agri-tourism and increase business opportunities for niche and cottage industries, she said.
West Virginia State University Extension Service has teamed up with these groups to offer business workshops and training for county residents
interested in starting their own business with trail.
The Quilt Trail is completely generated by county residents and business owners who see it as an opportunity to share some of the area’s history or increase their marketability, Byars said.
“This really is a program that encourages community support and a desire to preserve the rural fabric of the county,” she said.
The Quilt Trail Program began in Adams County, Ohio, and has since spread to 21 other states.
Mason County’s trail is the first in West Virginia.
Byars plans to start expanding the trail into Putnam County next year.
“We’re taking a region approach,” Bellamy said. “The hope is for it to become the West Virginia Quilt Trail, not just the Mason County Quilt Trail.”
So far, the trail’s steering committee has put up eight squares.
They are scheduled to have a new square each month until October, Byars said.
“We’re on a roll,” Byars said.
Typically a county has about 30 squares, but Byars believes there is enough history and residents interested in participating that they will far exceed that number.
The project’s steering committee has divided the county into four driving trails and one walking trail that goes through Point Pleasant.
Each section of the county will have a theme that ties the area together, Byars said.
The trail is also a way to tap into Point Pleasant’s growing art scene, Bellamy said. The town has several popular galleries and one of the nation’s
largest murals spanning its riverfront, he said.
Visitors can spend a day following the trail through rural parts of the county, then come into Point Pleasant and follow the trail to some of the
city’s businesses and galleries, he said.
While the trail is primarily geared toward the history buff, there’s something for everyone, said Jane Coles, a member the steering committee.
“History is just one piece of the puzzle,” Bellamy said. “(The trail) is designed to fit so many different niches and fits so many peoples’ interests.”
There’s shopping for the ladies and farm equipment to check out for those who like to tinker, said Mollie Yauger, another member of the committee.
The program is funded by grant money and is free to all residents interested in taking part.
The group is putting together a map and brochure with information about each square. They plan to have it ready for distribution in the fall.
For more information about the quilt trail contact the Mason County Tourism Center at 304-675-6788 or www.masoncountytourism.com.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com
Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE