Part of RAIL’s mission is to promote environmental education through community projects. We do this by building recreational parks so residents of southern West Virginia can enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. Local and visiting volunteers have helped RAIL accomplish this goal. There is always more work to be done, and volunteers are a must.
Earth Day 4-22-2021 Stonecoal Junction Project
Beckley, West Virginia
Stonecoal Junction to become new community park
By Mary Catherine Brooks WYOMING COUNTY BUREAU CHIEF
Stonecoal Junction was a hub of railroad and coal industry activity for many years. Dewey Houck, president of Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL), hopes it will be a hub of activity again as the new Guyandotte River Headwaters Boat Launch and Park. The area is being transformed into a roadside park, with a kayak/canoe launch site, and a cultural center focusing on the area’s rich coal mining and railroading histories. Our 5.88-acre parcel has a 1.5-acre fish pond, Houck said. With access to the beginning of the Guyandotte River, at the point where Tommy Creek and Winding Gulf Branch come together, the site has the potential to become a community park for local fishing and recreation, Houck believes. Sitting alongside the Coal Heritage Trail, the Guyandotte River Headwaters Boat Launch and Park could also be the first site to launch kayaks and canoes on the Guyandotte Water Trail, he explained. On Sunday, Oct. 13, and Monday, Oct. 14, a William and Mary University work team, along with local volunteers, as well as government and other agency volunteers will begin transforming the local landmark into a community asset, Houck said. All volunteers and other forms of assistance are welcome, Houck emphasized. Those interested in assisting with the project are urged to phone the Mullens Opportunity Center at 304-294-6188.
“A team will conduct a cleanup of brush and trash from the site. Another team will clean trash and creosote ties from the lake. A third team will build a trail to get kayaks down to the beginning of the Guyandotte River Water Trail. A fourth team will work on building a parking lot for those beginning the downstream water trip,” he noted. RAIL will also begin archiving pictures and information on Stonecoal Junction and coal mines within the Winding Gulf coalfields, Houck said. A historian and biographer will be available to collect and provide information between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Oct. 14. Stonecoal Junction sits in the middle of the historic Winding Gulf coalfields, surrounded by nearly 30 coal camps within a 10-mile radius, Houck noted. At one time, the Raleigh County location was a railroad yard for C&O and an interchange with the Virginian Railroad, Houck said. “It was an important passenger train exchange for people from other areas traveling through the coalfields,” Houck explained. Byrd Prillerman High School was established here in 1927 for African-American students, Houck said. “It was named in honor of a former slave, who was an eminent state educator and president of West Virginia State College,” he noted.
“Stonecoal Creek and Winding Gulf Creek come together at Stonecoal Junction to form the Guyandotte River,” he said. “Stonecoal Junction is the beginning of the Guyandotte River Water Trail that extends over 160 miles further downstream to Huntington.” Additionally, the Spider Web, a popular beer joint, sat at the intersection of W.Va. 16 and W.Va. 33. “The crossroads that traveled past coal camps in all directions made an excellent place for coal miners to vent their frustrations,” Houck noted. “Coal miners, many who had returned from experiencing World War II, gathered at the Spider Web to talk about working in water and dust, only getting to work two days a week, union engagement, and other complications. “A few 03.2 snifters and the juke box bellowing Kitty Wells and Hank Snow were probably the only therapy WWII hard-core veterans ever got and it seemed to work well,” Houck said. Rural Appalachian Improvement League, based in Mullens, acquired the property from the Raleigh County Commission. The organization already has kayak ports in Mullens, at the former Itmann School, and at the roadside park near New Richmond. https://www.register-herald.com/news/stonecoal-junction-to-become-new-community-park/article_c5df0a5c-7b34-5210-8842-8cb39effc534.html
Guyandotte River Park Kayak & Canoe access
New Richmond, WV Itmann, WV