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More ideas to promote West Virginia

I’ve often attempted through this column to encourage residents and visitors alike to look for ways to explore the wonders of the Mountain State, mentioning some of the varied features and attractions which might draw interest.

Whether it’s through numerous tourism campaigns, the Very Important Parks Person program and hiking program offered through our State Parks system or some national event such as the Boy Scout Jamboree, there are opportunities to bring new eyes to our borders.

Recently, West Virginia’s State Parks announced two new programs, the Ultimate Adventurer and Junior Adventurer (geared more toward families and youth) challenges, as a way to further explore our state and learn more about the landscape, features, plants and animals we have.

The challenges appear to only be open until Sept. 30. Similar to the VIPP program, participants are sent a card to have stamped once an activity is completed, with a prize given to those who finish all of their challenges. This program also has a social media component, asking participants to post a photo of themselves, their families or more on Twitter or Instagram with a particular hashtag.

The social media aspect, of course, will help to spread the message of the program and show the people and sites of West Virginia to those who might be looking for information about our state.

While I’m not a fan of the time-sensitive nature of the program, it’s something I could get behind if I had the opportunity. There are around 10 challenges, and, I suppose, there are those who are able to have several free weekends over the next couple of months to be able to complete everything.

I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.

Here’s another idea, inspired by a recent discussion with my uncle. It’s possible our Tourism officials already have something in place of which I’m not aware, or are working on it.

West Virginia, as we are aware, was born of the American Civil War.

According to the Civil War Trails organization, there are well over a dozen West Virginia communities with some connection to the Civil War. This includes Wheeling, the site of Independence Hall, where the efforts to create the state began.

West Virginia’s Tourism Department also recommends sites such as Droop Mountain and Carnifex Ferry, both battlefields and both state parks, the Philippi Covered Bridge and Jackson’s Mill. West Virginia saw approximately 25 battles and operations during the war and was the birthplace of several well-known individuals on both sides of the conflict.

If the state wants to put together some sort of tourism program to encourage visitation to these sites, that might bring even more feet to our state. There are history buffs across the country who are constantly researching Civil War battles and looking to visit the sites of important events.

Again, like the VIPP program, there can be a card issued to those wishing to participate, with a checklist of sorts for the sites available for visiting. Maybe the state could design a special patch for those who complete their card, also like the VIPP. Of course, this could spur other similar efforts to showcase every aspect of West Virginia’s culture and influence.

If we truly want to boost our tourism opportunities, as well as lure potential new residents, we should look into every path available. It can’t just be about our natural beauty and outdoor adventure activities. Why not start with our contributions to history?

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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