BY OLIVIA MCCONNELL, HUBCAP COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR AMERICORPS VISTA, THE HUB
The Hub continues to work with six Mon Forest Towns communities as part of The Hub’s Communities of Achievement Program (HubCAP) to help the communities build on the progress they have made towards revitalization. The Mon Forest Towns initiative focuses on growing the recreational tourism economy of the Monongahela Forest region. Marlinton is located in Pocahontas County, which has been described by HubCAP team member Cheslea Faulknier as “a destination filled with adventure and outdoor recreation.” The Marlinton HubCAP team is working to enhance and grow the town’s recreational tourism economy through a series of community engagement efforts called Marlinton Listens, which began with a Community Survey shared through multiple partners primarily via social media. The survey’s aim was to gauge the community’s opinions of growing Marlinton’s recreational economy while also understanding the needs and concerns of the community overall. We talked to two HubCAP team members, Chelsea Faulknier and Katie Workman, to hear about their goals for the two-year program.
The Hub: Why is the Mon Forest and outdoor recreation so important to your community?
Katie Workman: The Mon Forest is an amazing resource and crucial to our overall quality of life in Marlinton. The town is a hub for outdoor recreation because of proximity to river access, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding. We are surrounded by these activities as well as the outdoor beauty of the Mon Forest. For a long time, Snowshoe was what brought the majority of visitors to the county, primarily in the winter, but the Mon Forest helps make Pocahontas County and Marlinton a year-round destination. It’s the biggest asset to our community and visitors alike.
Chelsea Faulknier: Particularly since the pandemic, the Mon Forest has been an opportunity for so many people to get outside, and we are in a unique position that we have been able to maintain some tourism momentum during a difficult time.
The Hub: How do you see resiliency in your community?
Katie Workman: People are key to our resiliency. Marlinton was seriously affected by two devastating floods, one in 1985 and another in 1996. In some ways, we are still recovering from the mass exodus as a result of the flooding, but the folks who stayed have really held on to this place. People and their sense of connection to this place, that’s where we see resiliency.
The Hub: What assets are you most excited to focus on or expand?
Katie Workman: I am most excited for our team to be able to leverage the momentum that has been gaining with the Mon Forest Towns Partnership by working with various groups and helping move projects forward. Our team is made up of representatives who have been focusing on various projects in the town and county. The town of Marlinton’s comprehensive plan identifies support for the Mon Forest Towns Partnership and other projects that will promote the town as a hub to surrounding recreation opportunities. Discovery Junction is a recently completed outdoor stage and park area that will also feature a splash pad once completed this spring. This community asset will serve as a gathering place for residents and will help direct visitors to the surrounding recreation opportunities within the Mon Forest. This summer will kick off the first series of “First Fridays” at Discovery Junction. The work of the Snowshoe Highlands Area Ride Center (SHARC) is continuing, which will hopefully bring IMBA Gold Status to the Ride Center, attracting global attention to the area. Part of that work will include trails within the Mon Forest that connect directly to Marlinton. There are many projects that are in the works within the town that will enhance our growing recreational economy; these are just a couple examples!
The Hub: What makes your community unique?
Chelsea Faulknier: Our mountain culture and how diverse the area is, both for tourism and for folks that live here. The heritage, old time music, local artisans, traditions, farming, hunting, fishing, railroads, timber–these are all things that have been passed down through generations, and so much of this comes from the isolation of the mountains. In Marlinton, there is a lifestyle that comes from coexisting with the forest and the area.
Thanks to Chelsea Faulknier and Katie Workman of the Marlinton HubCAP team for sharing their experiences.