WOAY Exclusive: Thurmond town council member reacts to resolution causing for preservation of historic buildings

THURMOND, WV (WOAY) – A West Virginia House of Delegates resolution affirming the support of the house for the preservation of West Virginia’s historic buildings and coal heritage sites was resolved on Feb. 13.

House Resolution 6 specifically mentions the town of Thurmond, which contains buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service is currently responsible for these buildings and has proposed demolition of some of them in order to manage better and maintain the park.

Copies of the resolution are being sent to the National Park Service and the town of Thurmond.

One of Thurmond’s council members, Melissa McCune, said she is thankful that the state is getting involved.

“We were excited to hear that the state had taken an interest and are trying to be as helpful as they can in preserving the history of the town of Thurmond,” she said.

The Park Service is currently in the process of determining the fate of these properties. Because it is on the National Register of Historic Places, there is a strict process that must be followed before any action can be taken.

The park service has already held one public meeting seeking input. There will be another public meeting in the near future.

“We, the town, are anxiously anticipating to see what happens. Since the resolution has been presented we are waiting to see if there’s additional conversation or maybe taking a step back to see if additional information needs to be collected,” McCune said.

The lead sponsor of House Resolution 6 is Elliott Pritt. The town of Thurmond is in Pritt’s district.

He said that he grew up hearing stories about coal communities like Thurmond and that it is important to protect them wherever possible.

“There’s not much left of this heritage, physically,” Pritt said in a speech on the House floor in support of the resolution. “Many of the structures from the original town of Thurmond still stand, in very sharp contrast to the other coal mining communities in the area.”

“I had spoken with Delegate Pritt at the meeting back in January, and he said he would try to help us in any way that he could,” McCune said.

Eve West, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, said the process is continuing. She said the public will have another opportunity for comment.

“We will be continuing with the next phase of the process and working with consulting parties as we develop alternatives for the draft environmental assessment which will be circulated for review and open for public comment,” she said.

The buildings set to be removed have been dilapidated to the point of being unsafe. They are also prime targets for vandalism, and the Park Service doesn’t have the money to repair them all.

The project also includes improvements to other historic structures in the park, like Commercial Row in Thurmond.

McCune said she is concerned about how the demolition of historic structures in the park would affect Thurmond’s economy going forward.

“As more structures come down, so does the ability for the public or other commercial entities to come in and refurbish, restabilize, and become a viable economic driver in the community. 80% of the town is owned by the park. So if the structures are gone, that just reduces the chances for us to be able to grow as a town,” she said.

Newswatch is continuing to follow this story, and we will keep you updated along the way.

Mike Teaney, Danny Delanty, and Micah Leith contributed to the reporting for this story.

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