Scenic Beauty, Outdoor Adventure, History, The Arts


Two Rivers Heritage Blog

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  • 30 Apr 2012 2:34 PM | Anonymous
    In a conversation I had last week, I talked about "Heritage Areas" and the project that I have been working on since 2007. The project is to bring a National Heritage Area to the two rivers region.  The conversation included a statement that heritage is just the same as history.  This got me to thinking by asking myself a question.  Is heritage the same as history?

    Webster's dictionary definitions:

    Heritage - Values objects and qualities such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside and historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations.    

    History - The whole series of past events connected with someone or something.

    Heritage and History are both words that conceptualize and value the past while we carry on our cultural traditions through story telling of events and people,

    If you combine heritage with history you have the perfect blending of concepts that builds awareness of your "sense of place".  Once you have that and develop a strategy to create a sustainable development plan, then visitors, residents and potential businesses will come calling.  Because you have created a somewhere instead of anywhere.

    Heritage areas as places where our cultural traditions, events, festivals, our preservation projects, our conservation projects are celebrated, managed and nurtured.

    Heritage has no home, history is told by museums, in books, movies, YouTube Video's and story telling.

    History is the medium through which our heritage is transmitted.  Yeah! for both History and Heritage.

  • 26 Apr 2012 2:47 PM | Anonymous

    Canal Towns Reap Economic Benefits:

    Confirmation Provided by Recent National Park Service Report

    Hagerstown, MD – Three years ago, nine communities along C&O Canal began forming the Canal Towns Partnership, an economic development initiative with the goal of cooperatively marketing and making improvements, such as the addition of bike lanes and bike racks, to attract visitors to the canal’s gateway communities.

    A recent National Park Service report on the economic impact of visitor spending substantiated what the Canal Towns already knew, that the communities’ proximity to the C&O Canal National Historical Park yields significant economic advantages.

    The report shows that more than 4.1 million visitors in 2010 spent $53.1 million, an increase of $6.1 million from 2009, in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and in communities near the park in 2010. Nearly $34 million of the revenue was from non-local visitors. That spending supported approximately 700 jobs in the local communities.

    “The C&O Canal is enjoyed by many local residents as well as visitors from around the country who come to bike or hike along the 184.5 mile-long towpath,” said Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt.

    The communities involved in the Canal Towns Partnership, which officially launched in September 2011, have been committed to working with one another to capitalize on opportunities to increase trail and park-related visitation as well as to assist the C&O Canal National Historical Park personnel in ensuring the highest quality visitor experience.

    Although each of these towns had a multitude of readily available services for visitors, there were some gaps in signage, regional marketing, and amenities such as bike racks, public restrooms, benches, etc. Working together, with the backing of the C&O Canal Trust, the park’s official nonprofit partner, the Canal Town Partnership has installed business directory kiosks, produced visitor brochures, launched a Canal Towns web site, developed a regional calendar of events and are now adding bike lanes, bike racks, public restrooms and water, benches and other amenities.

    According to the national report, most of the spending/jobs are related to these amenities and others, such as lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).

    Walt Stull, Chairman of the partnership and Brunswick Town Councilman, “By working cooperatively, all of our communities are benefiting and building relationships that will provide us with long-term economic benefits.  Getting park visitors to come into our towns to shop, eat, and fill their gas tanks is just a good, common sense strategy.”

    As Brandt said, “The economic benefits from the Canal are felt throughout many communities in Maryland as well as neighboring states.”

    To download the full report visit and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010.

    The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. For more on how the National Park Service is working within Maryland, go to

    For more information on the Canal Towns Partnership and its economic and community development efforts, visit  Additional information on the C&O Canal Trust can be found at


    The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves and interprets the historical, natural, and recreational resources of the C&O Canal.  Over 4,100,000 visitors a year enjoy the opportunities for recreation and understanding that the park has to offer.  For more information, visit the park’s web site at

    Founded in 2007, the C&O Canal Trust is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect, restore, and promote the C&O Canal National Historical Park.  As the official “friends” organization for the park, the Trust seeks to ensure that the C&O Canal’s natural, historical, and recreational potential is fully realized.  Among the programs it supports is the Canal Towns Partnership. For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at

  • 19 Apr 2012 3:11 PM | Anonymous

    Page Jackson School, Freedom's Run, and a Trail - a Small Community Success

    "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease." World Health Organization


    Page Jackson Elementary celebrates the successful design and building of a 1.5 mile trail, garden, and adjoining boardwalk and wetlands. West Virginia is the number two obese state in the country. A few years ago Page Jackson Elementary School was a school with little focus on the health and wellness of the staff and students.  They had a number of nurses leave year after year.  They needed some motivation and role models. In the kitchen Flo Best kept trying and trying to make positive changes for the staff and students through food.  Then one day along came a new Nurse, Principal Tara Aycock and PE teacher Jay Earl with grand ideas.  The four began working together to get things right for the school. 


    They started slowly by incorporating on-site wellness screening for the staff.  Then they added a walking program for the staff.  PTVO bought the school a cart for outdoor recess with jump ropes, balls, and bean bags to play with outside.  They also added $15,000 worth of new equipment to an outdated playground. They created a Wellness Committee with local community leads.  They followed the state policies for nutrition and health to the letter for student’s meals. They informed parents of better ways to celebrate in school with healthy snacks and removed  vending machine foods to our students.  The wellness committee and the school were recently given prestigious distinction as Bronze Level with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthier Generations program.  Less than 2% of schools achieve this level.


    The Wellness Committee’s mission is to promote and enhance the health and well being of the students and staff of Page Jackson Elementary School by providing coordinated health, mental health and other support services.  Freedom’s Run ( ) was created by the West Virginia University Eastern Education Division to support building fitness trails and gardens at all the elementary schools in the county. Mark Cucuzzella MD, a family doctor and director of the race began looking for the best fit for a first school to focus on.  Page Jackson was the perfect fit.


    A successful National Park Service RTCA assistance grant with Anne O’Neill played a huge role in what has transformed a featureless field into 1.5 miles of rolling trail, boulders, a wetlands with boardwalk, ADA accessible areas, and a co-located garden. The project will be complete before the start of school this year at a budget of near 50,000 dollars.  Expert designer Ken Dzaak from Canaan Valley Institute has made this more than a “trail” but a space for place based learning.  The National Conservation Training Center lent their expertise and help for a wetlands.


    How was this accomplished without a large funder?  We were innovative and collaborative in our approach and searched for partners who had interest in this mission.  We first wrote an extensive proposal to the West Virginia Board of Education for a Grant Project called Innovation Zones. Our focus was an innovation on wellness focusing on natural outdoor activity and integrated education on healthy food while the children planted and harvested their own garden.  Children would be active, learn, and discover on their own trail and garden. The community and families would connect here too.


    We were awarded the grant and from here we branched out further to acquire funding through other grants and contributions:


    State of West Virginia and support of Senator John Unger and Community Participation Grant- $35,000

    Freedom’s Run/ West Virginia University Eastern Education Division $10,000

    WV Schools on the Move $5,000

    WV CARDIAC $10,000

    Kohls $1,500

    Charles Town Council $1,500

    Dept of Education- WV Innovation Zone $7,000

    Race for Recess- $3,000

    USDA Forest Services Job Corps-Harpers Ferry Jobs Corps- 200 in kind hours of building

    National Conservation Training Center, USFS (paid for Environmental
    Concern, Inc. to create wetland design) - Sarah Hildrbrand- $3,000

    National Park Service, Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance
    (RTCA) program -Anne O'Neill

    Fiona Harrison- Master Gardner of Slaynt Vie Farm. Garden Design/Construction and start up plants

    Race for Recess- Fundraiser directed by Kathy Skinner

    R and L Landscaping- construction of the trail at their cost.

    Canaan Valley Institute- Land Manager-Ken Dzaack

    Jefferson County School Board- amazing collaborative help in facilitating the project


    A special thanks goes to the PJES Wellness Council and Principal, Tara Aycock for setting this goal and making this happen.


    This trail will be a hub of activity for a large community void of trails.  The rural roads surrounding the school are not safe for walking and running. Our trail will be accessible for all before and after school hours. The community will maintain the garden in the summer months too and be engaged in ongoing trail maintenance and improvements.


    We have become a State and National Model for Michelle Obama’s vision of children getting back into nature to learn about food by getting their hands duty and to prevent obesity through natural outdoor movement. 


  • 03 Jan 2012 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    Community development has evolved.  In the past, the approach was based on a project by project strategy.  It often launched with the initial recognition of a problem, a white elephant of a building on Main and Main or, more often, a declining job market, population loss and less municipal income.  Civic leaders would determine that the solution was to attract more business.  An economic development team would then be directed to apply for grants, seek investors and subsidize a business or two. 

    But over the years, community development practitioners found that these businesses often did not succeed.  An enterprise gets started but fails to live up to expectations.  A grant provides startup funding for a project but the project begins to fail when the funding ceases to flow.  Investors show up but get entangled in community politics and become disillusioned. 

    A more holistic approach to economic development is needed.  It begins with the same perception of a problem and the recognition that lack of jobs and income is a big part of the problem.  Rather than addressing a single business, this approach puts in place an environment in which people want to invest.  They want to invest because they believe their investment has a good chance of paying off.  It may produce a profit, create satisfaction and raise the quality of life.  Most investors have choices and if they do not see a decent possibility of a payoff, they will go elsewhere.

    This approach does not say let’s start a business but instead let’s build an environment that encourages investors to invest, that helps businesses last and that allows investments to flourish and profit.  

    The earlier approach failed to consider the interconnected challenges faced by residents of low income, distressed communities.  Rather in this second approach there is deep and sustained citizen engagement to address a spectrum of inter-connected needs.  Resident and leaders envision a better future, create a definitive plan to accomplish that vision and recruit organizations, institutions and local agencies into collaborative partnerships that align resources and integrate programs and services it improve the quality of life within the community.

    The River Towns program embraces this holistic approach to community development and draws on an asset – based community development strategy. 

    The National Main Street Program is an example of successful asset-based economic development.  The Main Street program created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation is preservation-based economic development that enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets - from historic, cultural, and architectural resources to local enterprises and community pride. It is a comprehensive strategy that addresses the variety of issues and problems that challenge traditional commercial districts

    Asset-based community development(ABCD) is a strategy that seeks to uncover and utilize the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development. The basic premise is that focusing on a community’s assets is more likely to empower and engage its citizens to create positive and meaningful change.  In the case of River Towns, a major focus is on the asset of navigable rivers or waterways that offer opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming or scenic enjoyment.   In the original Trail Town Program, the central asset is the 138-mile Great Allegheny Passage rail trail and in the Canal Towns, the 184-mile C & O Canal Towpath and the National Historical Park represent significant assets and visitor attractions bringing close to 4 million visitors to that region annually.

    In developing a community development strategy on outdoor recreational assets, the Trail, River and Canal Town programs recognize that the market is significant and growing.   With the baby boomer generation leading longer and healthier lives, the number of active adults partaking in regular outdoor recreation, is growing each year.  It is also well known that quality of life is perceived by residents as much higher when there is access to outdoor activities as presented by trails and waterways.

    Outdoor recreation is on the rise as study after study demonstrates.  In Berks, Montgomery, Chester and Lehigh counties nearly $877 million is annual spent on hunting, fishing and wildlife watching each year.  The Great Allegheny Passage Trail Towns reported a $40 million economic impact from trail related businesses in the 2008 season despite a national economic downturn. 

    A recent report from the George Washington University, the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Xola Consulting (2009) analyzes the adventure travel market, which includes outdoor recreation, educational tourism and eco-tourism.  The report found that adventure travel has grown despite current economic hardships, and it is becoming increasingly more mainstream.  Perhaps surprisingly, many adventure travelers do not have a current passport, which suggests that they exclusively visit domestic or regional adventure travel destinations.  These tourists also conduct pre-trip research online (35%) and consult friends and family, which could also be through social media channels.

    The percentage of households that are interested in the environment and wildlife and have engaged in camping/hiking has grown at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent from 1993-2008. Additionally, in 1995 40.2 percent of households interested in the environment and wildlife went hiking and/or camping, and by 2008 50.8 percent engaged in hiking/camping.

    Public interest in existing and potential water trails along rivers and streams is growing, and these resources are being recognized for their contributions to local economies. Based on the 2006 Virginia Outdoor Survey, the two highest needs for outdoor recreation were access to recreational waters of the state and trails close to home.  Key recommendations in the 2007 Virginia Outdoor Plan proposed initiating a statewide trails and greenways planning process that incorporates various stakeholders and the public input process to better meet the growing demand.

    An overwhelming 91.9%  of Virginians indicated that having access to outdoor recreational opportunities was either important or very important.  Participation is most often on weekends; however, with flexibility in work schedules and the numbers of retired or semi-retired persons increasing, 28 percent of Virginians participate in outdoor recreation equally on weekends and during the week.  With demographics in Virginia shifting to an aging population, the number of persons who enjoy outdoor recreation both during the week and on weekends is likely to increase into the foreseeable future.

    As an economic and community development strategy, an asset-based approach to revitalization is a proven method. With the recent and continued growth of outdoor recreation as a tourism attraction, connecting communities to natural resources to attract tourism can provide economic opportunities, offer direct benefits to environmental conservation and empower local communities to manage their own resources in a sustainable way.  In addition to the benefits of tourism to a community, focusing on outdoor recreational assets also offers increased quality of life to residents, and attracts business investment.

    Warnick, Rodney B., Stevens Tom, Michael A. Schuett, Walt Kuentzel, and Thomas A. More. "Changes in National Park Visitation (2000-2008) and Interest in Outdoor Activities (1993-2008)." Proceedings of the 2009 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. GTR-NRS.P-66 (2009): 204-213. Print.

    Virginia Department of Recreation and Conservation. "Outdoor Recreation Issues, Trends and Survey Findings." Virginia Outdoors Plan. (2007): 14-23. Print.

  • 10 Jan 2011 1:42 PM | Anonymous
    Here are a few tips from the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program

    1.  Build a large tent.  Recruit a strong local advisory committee that represents a cross section of community interests.

    2. Play fair.  Identify your group decision-making process up-front.

    3. Get on the same page.  Establish a group mission and community vision by consensus.

    4. Create allies.  Get out and talk with those you might upon first glance, not be supportive.  They can become your strongest allies if you ask about their concerns early on and address them sincerely.

    5. Do a demo.  A small-scale but highly visible demonstration effort will help make the larger project feel real and doable.

    6. Achieve the possible.  Set achievable goals, record progress, and build momentum by celebrating the small steps along the way.

    7.  Be graphic.  People respond to images that help them visualize what you're proposing - use maps, drawings, photographs, web sites, brochures, slides, video and models.

    8.  Anticipate challenges.  Consider how the project might be impacted by the needs and concerns of various landowners and by other community priorities.  Do your homework.  Meet challenges with workable solutions.

    9. Mobiize citizen power.  Area colleges, schools and community service groups might have committed volunteers looking for projects to tackle.  Organize projects to use their time well.  Show your appreciation.  Make it fun for them.

    10. Evolve.  Renew the group with new participants and local expertise as the project grown and changes.

    11. Share Success.  Let everyone claim ownership of your idea.

    12. Be passionate.  You are improving the quality of life in your community and conserving natural treasures for future generations!
  • 18 Nov 2010 7:42 PM | Anonymous

    This article was written as a Community Survival Toolkit case study for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Cultural and Heritage Tourism Division.

    I want to thank all of the team members who made this happen.  If it was not for all of you (please see web site) we would not have been the premier marathon for this region for two straight years.

  • 17 Nov 2010 5:54 PM | Anonymous
    Visit to explore the Two Rivers Region part of  the Potomac Heritage Corridor

    Latest post - Historic Shepherdstown - A Bridge Away From the Trail
  • 27 Oct 2010 11:41 AM | Anonymous
    The Two Rivers Region and Trails

    Rivers have always been trails - water trails taking Native Americans, Explorers and Settlers for adventure, pleasure, settlement and recreation.  The Potomac River and the Shenandoah River are the two river trail bookends for this region.

    The Potomac River inspired George Washington to seek a navigable North-South route to the Forks of the Ohio and the land beyond.  It was a East-West crossing point at Pack Horse Ford and ferry crossings at Shepherdstown and Williamsport.

    Settlers moved into the region via the fords, creeks and ferry crossings which connected Indian Trails that Native Americans had carved out to traverse the mountain ranges and valleys of today's Shenandoah Valley.

    Today, these trails are destinations for residents and visitors to enjoy our natural resources and outdoor recreation.  These trails form an interconnected network of hiking, biking, walking and running paths from the mouth of the Potomac River to Pittsburg.  

    The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail connects to the Great Allegheny Passage. Millions of bikers use this trail each year.  The Appalachian Trail is our North-South route from Georgia to Maine.  The Tuscorora Trail links to the Great Eastern Trail enabling hikers to walk from Alabama to Maine.

    These trails tell many stories of the history of this Two Rivers Region.  Walk in the footsteps of the Indian tribes and the early settlers.  The Two Rivers Regional Network of Trails is becoming reality.

  • 27 Oct 2010 11:32 AM | Anonymous

    Two Rivers Region – Where Visions Become Reality


    In 1784 a retired Virginia gentleman embarked on a business trip to visit his properties in the Western country.  The trip also brought back his interest in a river passage, a corridor that could become a commercial artery to the West.  The rivers of the new nation were the highways of commerce and his trip from his home in the Tidewater to the forks of the Ohio were in his thinking the “route west”.

    Traveling on horseback up the Alexandria-Leesburg road (today’s Rt. 7) he approached the Blue Ridge up a winding road to “a notch in the ridgeline called Vestal’s Gap.” “At the crest, the slightest turn of the head offered him a panorama of two geological provinces, the Piedmont to the east, and the Shenandoah Valley to the west”. The Grand Idea, Joel Achenbach.

     He traveled down the ridge across the Shenandoah for a visit with his brother and friends.  It was not his first visit to the valley, for as a young 16 year old surveyor he not only surveyed the valley land but bought property along the Bullskin. 

    George Washington was the gentleman traveler and the land he surveyed and owned is now known as “The Land Between the Two Rivers”. His vision became a “route west”.

    His vision of a navigable route to the west was translated into his plans for a system of by-pass canals that would increase commerce along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.  The valley would become a crossroads of migration, early innovation in crop rotation, grist mills, and invention. 

    Flash forward

    If you retake the journey in 2010, and approach Vestal’s Gap (Keys Gap) up today’s Route 9 the Blue Ridge is still visible from Leesburg, but the vista from the notch while still panoramic is rapidly being altered to reveal a horizon stretching for miles into West Virginia.  Yesterday’s Back County, today’s commercial hub of the Eastern Gateway.  This route continues the tradition of linking the tidewater to the west, the Washington metropolitan area to West Virginia. 

    We have always been a nation on the move and never more so than in this two rivers region, where visions of a founding father became a reality that connected the nation.

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