Paper No. 93-6
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM
US GEOPARK HERITAGE: RIVERS, RAIL, KARST, COAL AND PEOPLE AT THE APPALACHIAN GEOPARK OF WEST VIRGINIA
A Geopark is a single, unified geographical area where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of education, sustainable development, and conservation. Its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, enhances awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using the resources sustainably. The Geopark raises awareness of the importance of the area’s geology – from both a historical and present-day standpoint – and gives local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthens their identification with the area. The Appalachian Geopark spreads across three southern West Virginia counties: Fayette, Greenbrier and Raleigh. These three counties include critical geological heritage components of rivers, karst and coal; as well as transportation modes, including river, rail, and meandering country roads. The Appalachian Geopark has tremendous geodiversity, including the natural range of geologic, geomorphological, soil, and hydrological features. Education is a common element across all of these settings, as well as their geological heritage. Internationally acclaimed geosites include numerous other mineral springs, karst, caves, rail and coal heritage, water and geological formations of international significance. Sustainable development, education, and conservation are the three primary aims of a geopark. The Appalachian Geopark will make use of existing and newly developed educational programming, with the aim of educating international and US-based students and tourists. There is great interest in drawing international and domestic tourists into the region to educate them about the amazing geological features of West Virginia. In addition, the geopark will stimulate much needed economic development in a region that has a rich geological heritage intertwined with culture and human history.