Roots & Treetops: Richwood, West Virginia

Richwood is my ancestoral homeland.

I did not grow up there, but my father, Lester Coe, did, as did his father…well, Cranberry Ridge.  My great-grandfathers, Perry Coe and Leonard Green, arrived in this country at the dawn of the Timber Era and were instrumental in the de-forestation of the last stand of old-growth woods east of the Mississippi. It took 50 years, but they got ’em all!  The unbalanced rape of Nicholas/Webster/Pocahontas Counties scarred the mountains and poisoned the streams. As early as 1920 the Gauley was discolored from the tannery on the Cherry River in Richwood. Later, coal was extracted to further pollute the planet.

But Earth is resilient.  New forests thrive and native brook trout swim in streams uninhabitable to them even two years ago. Ramp fields bask on the mountain side and ginseng hides in the hollow. Richwood, whose population peaked before the Great Depression and continued to prosper until the 1960s, can return to health also. But this resurrection can ONLY occur with a new, 21st Century infra-structure to replace the zero sum Coal Economy.  How?  People want to live in harmony with the natural beauty of our Appalachians. The re-birth of Richwood means providing jobs and attracting tourism.  Push high-speed internet up the Cherry and watch life, law-abiding family-rearing life, rush upstream.  Entrepreneurs, internet marketeers, programmers, authors, artisans, The Creative Class, as Richard Florida describes them. Richwood would develop into a Nicholas County Santa Fe/Taos, a smaller Asheville, NC. And it would occur quicker than the South Fork Dam could ever happen, yielding a year-around business climate of prosperity.  But only with a few citizens sharing this vision and taking lead who will not accept no…and only with the political will in Charleston and Washington to grease the skids.

Let’s make the Banks of the Cherry merry again!

About orangeacorn

We are, I believe, and everything is, in perpetual unfolding/enfolding/evolving. By surface appearances, we're in turmoil and fearfullness, but in fact our existence is on the edge of a new way, beyond the US versus THEM we have grown with. I encourage you to join me over coffee or tea in face-to-face encounters. I call this exercise, "CAFFEINE COMMUNION: Encounters with Paradigm Pioneers." I'm a Columbus, Ohio husband, father and citizen. I practice string band sounds from the ridges of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the vortex of the ancient drone.
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2 Responses to Roots & Treetops: Richwood, West Virginia

  1. Thank you for your post. As I study sustainability – one model put forward by Abound, a non-profit focused on sustainability, one of the 3 legs of the stool of creating sustainable communities is creating healthy economy and infrastructure. This seems to be exactly what you are proposing. With the advent of technology, communities that once needed to rely mainly on “natural” resources that could be depleted, can now rely in intellectual resources and infrastructure.



  2. eve says:

    Some thoughts that went through my head about this because sometimes I wonder about tourism as a source of stability for a city or region. That seems to be where a great deal of focus is. Is it sustainable? If the population of a town is entirely service oriented, do they ever get to become tourists elsewhere? Am i thinking of that incorrectly?

    Of course, if you grow a population that creates amazing computer programs & other “etheric” products (basically, things that don’t need to be manufactured from earth-borne resources) then I can see a population that could also fund its own tourism and creativity and health. There will still always be the service class, though, right?

    Also, in the case of small, out-of-the-way locations, it almost seems like they need an angel investor of some sort. Someone with capital and connections who can bring in a bit of the extraordinary. Check out Columbus, Indiana, for example (not necessarily completely off the beaten track),_Indiana. Even Bloomington, Indiana, had a lot of help establishing a culture via Cook, Inc.

    So much to think about in this area. Thanks for stimulating some more thoughts!


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