Marketing wonderful, wild West Virginia

A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Occasionally, I can hear coyotes howling from the woods near my home. As I’ve written before, that’s a mixed blessing – no one likes the idea of a pet in the backyard being attacked by a pack – but it is one among many proofs of something truly marvelous:

Wild, wonderful West Virginia is getting wilder.

And that may be our only salvation economically.

In case you hadn’t noticed it, we’re not doing very well in the Mountain State. Ours is the only state in the union with more adults not working than are drawing paychecks.

It’s going to get worse as more mines shut down. There is simply no replacement for those jobs in some southern counties. For decades, coal has been all they had.

So we have to diversify. Hillary Clinton says she’s going to put the laid-off miners to work in alternative energy jobs. Right. If you think that’s going to happen, I have a solar array in Pendleton County I’d be interested in selling you.

As usual, we’re going to have to pull ourselves back up by our own bootstraps – or, rather, our natural surroundings. That’s about the only place where there’s good news to report.

Think about it: In what other state do you have to swerve suddenly to keep a wild turkey from flying into your windshield? Where else do you know of that there are so many Canada geese that they’re a nuisance (been to the Heritage Port lately?).

Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend showed me a picture taken in rural Ohio County – of a black bear. Bobcats are not uncommon in this area. And again, there are the coyotes.

Soon, elk will be returning to West Virginia. State officials have a plan to bring them into a few southern counties, where it’s expected they will do well.

We have lots and lots of wild animals – and even more beautiful scenery and challenging terrain and streams. Ever look around you from the top of Dolly Sods? Some of the most beautiful wild places in the eastern United States are right here in West Virginia.

But lots of work is needed if tourism, already a major industry here, is to take the place of mining. There’s a big gap to close. Still, it’s worth a shot.

Though many in the younger generation seem glued to their electronic devices, I have a feeling the age-old longing to get back to nature will kick in at some point. And these kids have money.

Let’s just hope that they come here and spend it in wild, wonderful West Virginia.

Myer can be reached at: [email protected].

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