Big dreams in a big place: The West Virginia Land Trust’s new Mammoth preserve, named for both the nearby town and for its large size, creates a lot of opportunity.
Located in eastern Kanawha County, the 5,000-acre former surface mine site will host a cutting-edge forest and stream restoration project. It will also offer recreational opportunities for residents of a region undergoing an economic transition, where leaders are eager to expand amenities for community residents and visitors alike.
For comparison, 5,000 acres is more than twice the size of Blackwater Falls State Park, and 250% the size of WVU’s Morgantown campus. An area of that size covers almost 8 square miles, which – if the boundaries formed a rectangle – would be two miles wide and 4 miles long.
Appalachian Headwaters, a non-profit organization that grew out of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, negotiated for this land as part of a legal settlement, then gifted the property to the Land Trust for long-term ownership and management.
In the short term, Appalachian Headwaters will conduct restoration on approximately 2,500 acres of mined land by ripping compacted soils open to loosen, so seedling trees of native hardwood forests can take root, returning these disturbed sites to deciduous forest more closely resembling the natural forest that once thrived here. At the same time, stream channels affected by past mine activity will be restored as well. The Mammoth tract will be a demonstration of new technology, and mammoth dreams.
The remaining 2,500 acres on the tract is still nicely forested. WVLT is evaluating the recreational potential of this site for hikers, mountain bikers, and other trail users. Working with the Upper Kanawha Valley Tourism Project, and specifically the towns of Smithers and Montgomery, the Land Trust’s Mammoth site will offer a destination that complements the riverside redevelopment of these small towns, aiming to reinvigorate the local economy with tourism visitation and to expand area residents’ opportunities for recreation.