PHILIPPI, W.Va. — On Tuesday, the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) staff met at the Adaland Mansion in Philippi to review their draft of the management plan for the heritage area.

AFNHA began the drafting process when the Monongahela Forest was certified as a national heritage area in 2019. Three years later the plan is finally ready to be shown to the public, who are encouraged to read the draft and share feedback. A copy of the plan can be viewed here.

AFNHA staff meet under the Adaland pavilion (WBOY Image)

Executive director Phyllis Baxter said the management plan is the first step in being able to get funding for area projects from the National Park Service, but they also put a strong emphasis on working together with the community throughout the process.

“It’s the partnership network that makes the national heritage area happen, and we hope that this management plan can help guide that and bring people together, to work together for the benefit of our whole region,” Baxter said.

Included in the management plan were details on upcoming projects coming to the area.

Stephen Devita (WBOY Image)

Stephen Devita works in recreational tourism for AFNHA and is currently developing one of the new projects coming to the forest.

Devita is creating interactive outdoor recreation maps that aim to highlight the trails in the heritage area. Devita said that once the project is finished in July, tourists will be able to hike trails and earn patches upon completion of a trail.

“I attended school at UC Berkley, and while I was there I developed a passion for coding. I was already in environmental science and I figured there’s probably a good way that I can combine these two,” Devita said.

Lydia Plescher (WBOY Image)

Lydia Plescher is an AmeriCorps member serving at the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center who is working on a new temporary exhibit.

This exhibit is currently open and focuses on wild plant traditions in Appalachia, and how plants like ramps and ginseng have been used as food and medicine in the area. The exhibit features interactive elements like plants visitors can feel or smell, and

“Since I’m from out of state I wanted to make sure that I’m accurately representing the community here, so I talked to a lot of local historians, herbalists, and listened to a lot of oral histories to see what kind of patterns came up,” Plescher said.

If you want to learn more about the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area, their upcoming projects or read about their new forest management plan, you can visit their website here.