Who Are We?


     The Coal Heritage Highway Authority manages development of the Coal Heritage Trail, a national scenic byway stretching from Bluefield to Ansted and passing through the counties of Fayette, Raleigh, Wyoming, McDowell, and Mercer.   The Coal Heritage Trail was designated as a national scenic byway in 1998 and is part of a network of scenic byways and All American Roads that tell the story of America.

     The National Coal Heritage Area (NCHA) is federally designated as an area of national historical significance.  It represents a part of the growing effort by the National Park Service to develop resource protection initiatives for areas of national importance that rely on partnerships and private ownership rather than the traditional methods of federally owned parklands. The mission of the National Coal Heritage Area is to preserve, protect, and interpret lands, structures, and communities associated with the coal mining heritage of southern West Virginia.  The NCHA includes 13 counties in southern West Virginia: Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Lincoln, Wyoming, and Cabin Creek and Paint Creek in Kanawha County.


     The West Virginia Legislature created the National Coal Heritage Area Authority and Coal Heritage Highway Authority as economic development entities to manage these two important initiatives and help build the tourism industry in southern West Virginia.



    The Coal Heritage Highway Authority and National Coal Heritage Area Authority work to preserve, interpret, and promote the rich coal heritage of southern West Virginia.  To accomplish this the two entities depend on a strong network of partner organizations at the local, state, and federal level.  In addition to other cultural preservation initiatives, projects that we have supported include:


  • Revitalization of the downtown Bluefield Historic District including Chicory Square.
  • Restoration of the Nellis Church in Boone County
  • Reconstruction of the Bramwell Depot in Mercer County.
  • Assistance with development of new exhibits at the Miner’s Museum in Boone County.
  • Construction of the new visitor center at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
  • Development of the John Henry Historical Park in Summers County.
  • Restoration of the Hinton Train Depot.
  • Development of the Country Roads Scenic Byway Interpretive Center in Logan.
  • Installation of five interpretive kiosks along the Coal Heritage Trail.
  • Restoration of Graney Park in Mt. Hope.
  • Restoration of the Houston Company Store in McDowell County,
  • Development of the Coal Heritage Headquarters and orientation center in Mt. Hope.
  • Restoration and outside improvements to the African American War Memorial building in McDowell County.

                 WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

     Tourism is big business. In 2001, tourism contributed $537.2 billion to the U.S. economy making it the country's third largest retail industry behind automotive dealers and food stores. In 2000, travel and tourism provided more than 7 million jobs and indirectly supported another 9.2 million.

Cultural heritage travel is a large and lucrative segment of the travel industry. In 2002, 81% of U.S. adults included at least one cultural, art, historic or heritage activity totaling 118.1 million adult travelers. Cultural heritage travelers also spend more and stay longer than other travelers, generating more economic benefit. (Historic and Cultural Traveler, Travel Industry Association, 2003)  According to the West Virginia Division of Tourism, in 2007 the number one request to the tourism call center was for information on sites that feature culture and history.


Cultural heritage tourism provides many benefits including:

·        Creating jobs and businesses

·        Increasing tax revenues

·        Diversifying the local economy

·        Creating opportunities for partnerships

·        Attracting visitors who are interested in history

·        Increasing historic attraction ticket sales

·        Preserving local traditions and culture

·        Generating local investment in historic resources

·        Building community pride in heritage

·        Increasing awareness of the site or area's significance