Harnessing the economic and community development potential of West Virginia’s scenic beauty is the focus of a project being led by a faculty member at West Virginia University.

Chad Proudfoot, program coordinator of the Master of Legal Studies Program in the Eberly College’s Division of Public Administration, recently received a grant from the Central Appalachian Empowerment Zone to help develop a management plan for the newly established Elk River Scenic Byway. The byway was established as a result of a WVU Community Design Team project in Clay, W.Va., in 2007.

Proudfoot notes that an important part of this whole project is the amount of direct involvement that the communities along the byway had in the development and direction of the project.

The citizens of Clay wanted to establish a scenic byway along the Elk River to promote tourism and showcase the natural beauty of the area. Proudfoot, who was not on the original design team, was asked if he would lead the effort at WVU.

“It’s very important for the public to be involved, because the folks who live there have a vested interest in this byway,” Proudfoot said. “In the end, it’s the voices of the people who live along the byway corridor which will come out in the management plan. I’m just fortunate enough to be in a position to facilitate.”

To be designated as a scenic byway, an area must meet at least one of six intrinsic qualities set forth by the Federal Highway Administration. The road must possess archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational or scenic qualities. The Elk River route was designated as a byway under all of the qualities except archaeological.

The Elk River Scenic Byway starts where W.Va. Route 4 meets Interstate 79 at Sutton and follows Route 4 to W.Va. 16 through Clay. It then takes Elkhurst Road back to Route 4, ending the 75-mile route in Clendenin. The byway also includes a bypass for large vehicles to quickly detour around a portion of the route between Clay and Procious, roads that may be too narrow for larger, commercial vehicles to navigate.

“One of the main features of the byway is the many access points from I-79 along the route,” Proudfoot said. “People can get on and off of it easily, allowing them to only follow part of the route if they do not have time or are not able to drive the whole way.”

Now that the corridor has received the scenic byway designation, a management plan must be written for the area. This management plan will describe the goals of the project, who will manage sections of the byway and other important information.

The management plan gives information about the history of the road, the different qualities the road has to offer visitors and the incorporated communities that it passes through. One of the goals Proudfoot has for this project is to incorporate notices onto pre-existing exit signs that denote each access point to the byway.

The Central Appalachian Empowerment Zone is an organization based in Clay. The group is dedicated to enhancing infrastructure, access to health and educational resources, and economic and housing development in an 800-square-mile area.

The Community Design Team helps people make the most of their community by bringing volunteer professionals from a variety of disciplines to a locale to assist the community members in beginning a process of laying a strategic course for the future. Founded in 1997, the team has visited 38 communities. The most recent visit was held in August 2010. Teams can include landscape architects, planners, geographers, architects, engineers, historians and economic development experts. The mix of professionals is dependent upon the needs of the locality and additional factors.

For more information about the Elk River Scenic Byway project, contact Chad Proudfoot, program coordinator of the Master of Legal Studies Program, at (304) 293-7977 or Chad.Proudfoot@mail.wvu.edu.



CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Rebecca.Herod@mail.wvu.edu

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.