By Rodney Bohner, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
Thank you for letting me introduce myself. I’m Rodney Bohner, and I am a PreserveWV AmeriCorps member for Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. I grew up mainly around the South-Central area of Pennsylvania. Growing up I was fortunate to live in areas with a variety of historic resources. I even lived in two different Civil War-era houses before moving off to college. Many summers were spent biking around Gettysburg and the National Historic Park. My grandparents also lived in a Central Pennsylvania coal town where, as kids, we would explore coal dirt piles and abandoned mining sites. Most significant was my time spent living in an 1860 mill owner’s house with a State Park and restored grist mill across the street. At Penn State University, I studied recreation and parks management. After graduating, I’ve worked across the country in different recreation and youth programming settings.
It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of the breadth of historic preservation. My introduction to the potential of historic re-use came while working aboard the restored, Grand Banks fishing schooner Roseway, a National Historic Landmark. Originally a yacht-fisherman, Roseway was rescued and restored in 2001 and now works as the educational platform of the World Ocean School. The non-profit works with at-risk youth from Boston to St. Croix, U.S.V.I. to build skills in teambuilding, community engagement, and lessons related to their school subjects through hands-on learning experiences on the water. Seeing firsthand the benefits of such programs, the possibilities of restoration, and the time spent at historic sites from the North End in Boston, to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the forts and sugar mills of U.S. Virgin Islands, I realized the potential of making new what’s old.
I’ve come into my AmeriCorps experience with an open mind ready to learn as much as possible. I’m still relatively new to the back work that goes into researching and preserving historic sites and landscapes. Fortunately my site director Lynn Stasick, also Statewide Field Services Representative for PAWV, has already provided me with the opportunity to visit a number of sites and chances to learn about researching and preservation techniques. For example, I’ve assisted with hands-on window restoration workshops for the fire hall in Elkins and a CCC camp near White Sulphur Springs. In the last few weeks, I also toured the Abruzzino Mansion in Shinnston, the Easton Roller Mill near Morgantown, and a special tour of Cook’s Mill near Greenville. These experiences have shown me the amazing amount of cultural resources in the state.
I look forward to serving more endangered sites in the near future and serving the statewide community in the coming year. My projects include identifying and nominating properties for the PAWV Endangered Properties List as well as serving with properties already on the list. I’m also looking forward to engaging students at a local school to increase student interest in preservation. I know there will be many other challenges and good stories during my time spent in the communities around the State.
This service initiative is administered by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the statewide grassroots nonprofit dedicated to the support and promotion of historic preservation in the Mountain State. The PreserveWV AmeriCorps members develop and participate in a variety of community projects related to historic resource improvement, historic preservation, heritage tourism development, and nonprofit organizational capacity building. For more information, visit www.pawv.org. PreserveWV AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service, and by the Commission for National and Community Service.
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