A recent study of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s AmeriCorps program suggests its heritage tourism programming is an important economic engine for West Virginia, according to Danielle Parker, executive director for the alliance.
The study found that more than half of travelers who visit the program’s heritage sites traveled from more than 50 miles and that each visit generated nearly one night’s hotel stay and an average of $271.30 for the local economy, Parker said.
Heritage tourism usually include museums, state parks, historical theaters, and living history sites such as Jackson’s Mill, near Weston, or Carnegie Hall, in Lewisburg.
The study also found that museums and historical organizations contribute positively to the quality of life in the state’s cities and towns and that people enjoy and learn from their visits to sponsor organizations, Parker said.
The alliance worked with McMahon Consulting Group to study the effects that the program and heritage tourism have on West Virginia.
“We discovered that AmeriCorps members are essential to providing an excellent visitor experience and to developing their site for tourists,” Parker said.
“It’s clear from the study that AmeriCorps members’ service is leading to more effective organizations and improving the quality of visitor experiences.”
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is a statewide service initiative in which AmeriCorps members are engaged to Main Streets thrive and communities capture their history, and to preserve beloved historical landmarks.
AmeriCorps members serve one-year terms at historical organizations where they complete special projects aimed at developing heritage-tourism destinations and improving the sponsoring organization’s ability to carry out its missions.
There are more than 20 historical sites sponsoring Preserve WV AmeriCorps members in 2019, Parker said. Two high-profile sponsors include Cockayne Farmstead, at Glen Dale, and the Waldomore, at Clarksburg.
Jessica Kittle, assistant director for the memorial foundation for Pricketts Fort State Park, reported that her organization’s participation in the program for two years benefited the foundation “by helping us fulfill our mission of preservation through various projects that we would not have been able to complete on our own.”
The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program is celebrating its sixth year of operation and is currently competing to become a nationally-recognized program.
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