Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 25, 2013

Officials break ground on interpretative walkway

KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — City, state and local officials broke ground Friday on a railroad and coal heritage interpretative walkway, the first groundbreaking associated with the Colonial Intermodal Center project.

The walkway will contain signage exploring Bluefield’s history with the railroad and coal industries and is expected to be completed by August. Official construction will begin Tuesday.

The signage and walkway will eventually be incorporated into the Colonial Intermodal Center, a transportation hub with room for future businesses in downtown Bluefield.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who secured a $600,000 federal grant to help jump-start the project, congratulated city officials during the ceremony.

“This is a rededication, a rejuvenation and a reimagination of downtown Bluefield,” Rahall said. “Bluefield certainly has a story to tell the current and future generations. Spanning the great chronology that makes up Bluefield’s past, these panels will detail the coal, railroad and people who made our past.

Rahall said the new interpretive walkway is a symbol of future economic development for the region.

“After this interpretive walk is completed the question is where do we go from here,” he said. “Bluefield sits in an advantageous area regionally and economically as a southern gateway to our state. We have an opportunity to market our state, to speak of our positives. As we move forward with development, we must be aggressive.”

Additionally, Rahall said the project is an important step in preserving the area’s coal heritage.

“Today’s project may not be the biggest project Bluefield has undertaken but it is nonetheless important,” he said. “It is our history. It is our heritage. We do not hide our heritage in West Virginia. It is a heritage we are proud of because it built our country.”

William Robinson, a community development specialist with the West Virginia Division of Highways, said the DOH was proud to partner with the city for the Intermodal project.

“Not only do we effect people’s lives through safe and effective transportation projects, we work to serve cultural and economic needs of communities,” Robinson said. “I am sure this project will contribute to the economic development of this area as well as to the history of West Virginia’s coalfields region.”

Christy Bailey, executive director of the Coal Heritage Authority, said preserving the area’s coal heritage through the interpretive signage is important not only to Bluefield but to the entire coalfields region in southern West Virginia.

“Coal from southern West Virginia was critical in our history. While coal mining in southern West Virginia shaped our nation it also shaped our region as well. The walking area we are breaking ground on today is joining several sites where people can learn about the people, industry and history of the coal region. I would like to say congratulations to the city of Bluefield on taking this step.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com