More people are traveling in West Virginia than ever before, according to a study Dean Runyan and Associates prepared for the West Virginia Division of Tourism and released in September. The study shows travel spending in the state totaled more than $4.38 billion in the 2008 calendar year. That's the equivalent of approximately $12 million per day.
Travel spending in the Mountain State has increased by 7.8 percent per year since 2000. Visitors who stayed overnight in commercial lodging facilities spent $1.4 billion in 2008, or about one-third of all travel spending in the state. Day travelers who spent substantially on gaming and entertainment added $2.1 billion, or 47 percent of the state total.
During 2008, visitor spending in West Virginia directly supported about 44,000 jobs with earnings of $912 million. Local and state revenues generated by travel spending were $591 million in 2008, which does not include property taxes.
The impact on the Potomac Highlands Tourism Region, which includes Randolph County, was quite significant. Total direct travel visitor spending at the destination was $291.1 million, up from $197.6 in 2000. Industry employment generated by travel spending in accommodations and food service in 2008 was 2,320 jobs, up from 2,180 in 2000.
Travel spending in Randolph County was $43.4 million in 2008, up from $25.8 million in 2000. Six hundred travel-related jobs in the county had earnings of $10.3 million in 2008, up from $7.7 million in 2000.
Pocahontas County, primarily due to visitors to Snowshoe, saw travel spending rise from $77.2 million in 2000 to $100.9 million in 2008. While earnings were up significantly, travel industry-related jobs in Pocahontas County dropped from 1,350 in 2000 to 1,340 in 2008 with earnings in 2000 at $20.9 million and $28.3 million in 2008.
Statistics can be, and usually are, boring but these should be a wakeup call to not only those travel-related businesses already established in Randolph County but for those entrepreneurs who might be interested in starting new ones. There are several initiatives under way to bring more visitors to the county. The entertainment industry, specifically the American Mountain Theater and the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, work tirelessly year round to bring people to the area by the bus load for obvious reasons. Almost a year ago, Elkins was designated an ON TRAC city that will, hopefully, lead to it becoming a Main Street City. The whole stimulus within that program is to help business owners, banks, financial institutions and city government make the town more attractive in ways that will entice first-time visitors to come back time and again.
Elkins and Randolph County are doing quite well now. The theater and railroad are bringing thousands of people into the area each summer. This cannot, however, go on forever. Those who I've talked to say the current status can probably be maintained for about five years, after which it will begin to decline unless other entertainment venues are made available. People are interested in coming back to the same things only so many times, then they begin looking for other places with different venues of entertainment. It would seem that some of our young, ambitious business tycoons would be, and perhaps they are, looking into venues that will help maintain and grow the area's economic base and make a few bucks at the same time.
Those who might consider becoming a part of the "new" economic base of the area must, however, take into account that their hours of operations will be such to accommodate the visitors, not their own conveniences.
On Wednesday, we took time out to pay tribute to those who have and are serving in our military forces. The world, for the most part, sees only the high visibility memorial services conducted at places such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns. That is fine; that is as it should be. We tend, however, to let these high-profile events overshadow those at the grassroots level, which are just as important as any the president of the United States and other high-ranking dignitaries attend.
I had the privilege to attend the memorial service at Dunmore in Pocahontas County and there could not have been a more appropriate service anywhere. No wreath was laid at a gravesite nor was there a 21-gun salute. The salutes, if you will, were given by Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps Commander Barry Sharp and Senior Vice Commander Harlan Whiting, who were ably assisted by other members of the corps. Verbal tributes, prayers and a moment of silent remembrance were offered for those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the defense of our country and our way of life and to those who are now guarding those rights.
Recognition was given to the business owners and private citizens who support the Honor Corps and their graveside services that they perform regardless of weather conditions.
Before a crowd of more than 150 veterans, their families and friends, Cora Lee Carpenter of Dunmore and Dorothy Jean Whiting of Racine, Va., read poems of tribute that each authored only hours prior to the service. Reverent and beautifully written, they captured the mood and intent of the occasion.
The meal, prepared by ladies associated with the Honor Corps, was delicious. Everyone knows you can't beat Pocahontas County homecooking.
I suspect that when Glen Facemire Jr. decided to write his book, "Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too," he knew that he was adding to an already heavily studied and popular subject.
When I searched Allium Tricoccum, the scientific name for the sometimes lionized, oftentimes demonized, little bulb, I came up with 84,800 possible sources. Of the several I checked, many referred to Facemire's book, so from all indications he has added considerably to the realm of knowledge on the ramp.
Published by McClain Printing in Parsons, the book covers every major subject about ramps. The lifecycle of ramps from the seed to the matured ramp will familiarize you with this wonderful herb to the extent you will know when to harvest them or take the seeds or bulbs for planting or just to recognize them at any time of the year.
Images contained in the 148-page book are on gloss enamel paper that lends itself to present the pictures in top-quality style.
It contains chapters covering subjects such as seeds, bulbs, digging, growing your own ramps, shipping, dehydrating, ramp recipes, ramp humor, ramp misconceptions and the preservation.
There is a chapter by Dr. Phil Whanger titled "Ramps, Looking Into The Future." This section, concerning the medical aspect of selenium-enriched ramps, will be of interest to anyone who might like to understand some of the prospects of using ramps for medicinal purposes.
Given his many years of experience with ramps, Facemire has rendered a book on ramps that tells it all, and is presented in a simple to understand way. His book contains 148 glossy enamel pages, 42 black and white photos and 16 color photos, in 14 chapters with 16 pages of recipes.
The book is available from Ramp Farm Specialties, P.O. Box 48, Richwood, W.Va. 26261 for $14.95 plus $3 shipping.
It is also available at most book stores or from McClain Printing in Parsons.