Morgantown Summer 2021 Edition

2 021 E D I T I ON



to Living & Working in






magazine has changed, too. We made the leap to a sassier short x wide page format that we’ve been thinking about for a while. We’ve adopted a seasonal publishing schedule: Summer, Fall, Win- ter, and BOM, because Best of Morgantown has become a season in its own right. And we’ve added a dining guide in appreciation of the satisfying variety of restau- rants we are lucky to still enjoy. This summer, we all get to rediscover the restaurants, shops, and events that make Morgan- town a great place to live. Make the most of it! Lots of big, genuine smiles at the April 10 Arts Walk!

N ow we know: Spring is even better when it coincides with the wind-down of a crushing pandemic. Almost anywhere you go these days, just about anyone you talk with, relief shines through. Even joy. The April 10 Arts Walk, first of the season, may have been the best-attended ever. Our Morgantown magazine online calendar is starting to burst with events again. Sometimes, we even get to see strangers smile—one way the pandemic has changed us all for the better is by reminding us to appreciate that kind of simple pleasure. During the pandemic, we’ve heard that people are fleeing crowded urban places for right- size cities like ours. In this issue we cover the new Ascend WV program that invites remote work- ers to move here. You’ll also find stories on where to live, things to do, and what’s new. Just as we’ve changed during the pandemic, Morgantown

See you around town—


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@morgantownmag @morgantownmag


volume 10 • issue 4

PUBLISHED BY New South Media, Inc. 1135 Main Street, #279, Granville WV 26534






DESIGNER Hayley Richard,

MANAGING EDITOR Holly Leleux-Thubron,



ADVERTISING Cyndi Davidson, Bryson Taylor, Kelley Wood


This Matters

CONTRIBUTOR Barbara Dobilas

10 Try This

Black Bear Historical Fencing is bringing Historical European Martial Arts to Morgantown.

15 Eat This

SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscription rate is $20 for 4 issues; call 304.413.0104.

Find sweet treats and savory fare at Almost Heaven in Cheat Lake.

11 See This

This spring brought a fresh bloom of murals to downtown.

EDITORIAL INQUIRIES Unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted. Please send a query to

16 Do This

New South Square is breathing new life into an entire city block in Granville.

12 Who's This

Morgantown’s new city manager brings experience, enthusiasm, and readiness for a pick-up game.

MORGANTOWN is published by New South Media, Inc. Frequency of publication is subject to change without notice. Double issues may be published, which count as two issues. We reserve the right to substitute gifts of equal or greater value. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher. © 2021 NEW SOUTH MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WHO ARE WE? The mission of New South Media is to change perceptions of West Virginia—not just outside the borders but, more importantly, in how West Virginians look at themselves—by telling positive stories about the peopleand places that make West Virginia a great place to live. Our products are community builders. We value responsible, accurate, and inspiring storytelling delivered in high-quality products that showcase great design and photography. We make a difference, one story at a time.

17 Follow This

If you like historic homes and the stories behind them, this Instagram feed is for you.

13 Beat This

United Way created a fun challenge to crown Morgantown's most generous neighborhood.

18 Love This

Live theater is back and downtown is your new go-to destination. Features 20 Work Globally, Live and Play Here 31 The Exceedingly Official Insider's Guide to Our Many and Varied Neighborhoods! 50 Endless Adventure in Your Own Backyard

13 Know This

Barbra Doblais shares her observations after recently moving to Morgantown.

14 Do This

There’s a philosophy behind the placement of the climbing holds at Gritstone Climbing + Fitness.





Nostalgia, Updated Named for our area’s rich history in glass-making, the new Glass Factory retail and office building brings a classy industrial look to Star City’s University Avenue business corridor. Adding to the old-timey feel is Village Butcher and Market, a full-service craft butcher shop and deli. Beauty and nail salons, a clothing boutique, and a cafe are among shops open now or soon. Driving electric these days? Free charging right out front while you wait for your hanger steak or leg of lamb.

Making the most of the riverfront Riverside living is the best! The Morgantown‌‌Riverfront‌ ‌Revitalization‌‌Task‌‌Force‌has good things in the works along the Mon River.

New signs alerting residents to good fishing at the docks

New kayak storage locker locations and signs

A climbing boulders and bike skills area across from the dam



a competitive side—so it checks all of those boxes for me.” So Thomas and a few similarly minded friends started Black Bear Historical Fencing to learn and to teach, and now they’re offering introductory courses in their main focus, German longsword. Based on the enthusiastic attendance at the first night of the five-week introductory course they offered in March—a couple dozen people for a planned dozen slots—they’re not alone in Morgantown in their interest. Historical European martial arts are being revived after having long been lost, Thomas explains. “German longsword fencing techniques come from the 14th and 15th century,” he says. While martial arts like karate, jiu-jitsu, and kung fu were passed from generation to generation, he says, the European martial arts were abandoned as military technologies advanced. “But we have manuscripts, manuals, treatises, and artwork that show how people did this in medieval times. HEMA is a revival of these arts, and there are schools and clubs popping up around the world where people are trying to recreate what these manuals and treatises used to teach.” Names and classifications of sword-type weapons are debated, Thomas says. But as opposed to a sabre, which is what we now call a sword that was used with one hand, a longsword is generally used with two hands. And it’s, you know, long: If the user stands it on the floor by its tip, the pommel at the other end comes to around the user’s armpit. Unlike the comparatively delicate, gentle- manly sport of fencing with foils or épées that you might have in your mind, a longsword fencing match looks far more aggressive and full-bodied. “We also incorporate grappling techniques that are in the manuals,” Thom- as says. “Instead of just fighting with the tip or the blade, you’ll also use the pommel as a striking object. And we use takedowns, too— any technique they would have used back then and recorded in manuals, we’re recreating that. All while trying to make it a safe and competitive sport.” Just like for Thomas, HEMA appeals to people who have a variety of interests: history, fantasy, martial arts, and fitness. Black Bear Historical Fencing offers courses from time to time: follow @blackbearhistoricalfencing to keep

TRY THIS Get Your Medieval On Black Bear Historical Fencing is bringing Historical European Martial Arts to Morgantown.

“I was always really into history,” he says, and HEMA is all about medieval military history. He’s a little nerdy, too—Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings—and it’s got that vibe. “And I love martial arts, and I have

➼ DYLAN THOMAS STUDIED karate as a kid. Later he bounced around between kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, and he competed some. But when he ran across Historical EuropeanMartial Arts— HEMA—he found his martial arts home.

up with the latest. written by pam kasey


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➼ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN the whimsical new mural on the Pleasant Street Parking Garage yet, it’s worth a trip downtown. The mural “reads” from the left, at the corner of Pleasant and Chestnut streets, to the right. “The concept is kids at the corner drawing chalk animals, and across the mural they’re coming to life,” says artist Jennifer Ramsey. A black bear, an Eastern box turtle, a brook trout, and more escape their white-chalk origins and come into luminous color. They’re all critters Ramsey has herself seen on her travels in West Virginia. She complemented the cool-colors street mural with a splash of hot colors just inside the garage. Ramsey’s is one of three works commissioned this spring by Main Street Morgantown. Look for one by “Eddie Spaghetti” Maier on the side of 432 Spruce Street, beside the Morgantown Market Place pavilion, and another by Brian Pickens on 201 Walnut Street. Utility boxes got a sprucing up this spring, too, with six of them newly covered in eye-popping original art in the form of vinyl wraps installed in April. Patricia Colebank, Maggie McDonald, Connie Mae Moeller, Caroline Murphy, Taylor Pate, and Eli Pollard all contributed works for boxes on High and Spruce streets. Keep your eyes open—the city has created a line item for murals in its budget, so we can expect more soon. written by pam kasey Bustin’ Art All Over This spring brought a fresh bloom of murals to downtown. SEE THIS

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a really good staff here. Also, with a larger community base comes more expertise— we can tap into resources at the university, and there’s the broader base of community nonprofit organizations and efforts in Morgantown. So I see Morgantown’s larger size as a great opportunity. What do you see as Morgantown’s potential? KH Morgantown’s at the foot of the Appalachian mountains, where there are unending recreational opportunities. It’s the center of Rails-to-Trails efforts that link this whole region together. I’m aware of a huge effort to try to bring back the waterway as an economic tool. You throw into that the university, development of the airport, and the area being a retail hub for the entire region, and I think the potential is limitless from a development standpoint. The key is, how do we manage that growth so we don’t lose sight of the quality of life we expect? I think if we can keep our emphasis on pedestrian walkways and rail-trails and biking and keep our eyes on green space while there’s growth going on around it, there’s such great potential. Tell us about your family. KH My wife, Toni, and I knew each other in high school. She’s an RN who has chosen most of that time to stay home with family and kids. We were foster parents, and we adopted three of our foster children, so we have 10 children altogether and 30 grandchildren. When we get together, we’d probably fill the Event Center at the Marriott—it’s a joyous occasion, and loud. What do you do for fun? KH I’ve been registered with the Boy Scouts of America for probably 45 years. I was a scoutmaster for each one of my boys, so five times, and I have served on executive boards of the different councils, so I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors with young men, and teaching them. I like woodworking. I’m a violinist—I played in the Arizona State University symphony when I was getting my undergraduate degree there and have kept it up over time. And I still play basketball, for fun and exercise. This interview was edited for length. interviewed by pam kasey


Meet Kim Haws Morgantown’s new city manager brings experience, enthusiasm, and readiness for a pick-up game.

What municipal issues are closest to your heart?

➼ AS OF DECEMBER, Morgantown has a new city manager. Kim Haws comes to us after 20 years as city manager of Bridgeport, a West Virginia community that is admired statewide for its economic development and the state- of-the-art Bridgeport Recreation Complex. We caught up with Haws to learn his views on city management, family, and fun. What is your greatest strength as a city manager? KH City manager is not a position you can dabble in—you have to immerse yourself in it. So I think one of my strengths is that I get very involved. I integrate well. And I would say that I’m a very good communicator.

KH I encourage our staff to be part of the solution—that really does make us more effective public servants. I’ve also spent a lot of my career fostering public–private relationships that have to exist in order for economic development to occur. Morgantown is four times the size of Bridgeport. How do you expect the dynamic to be different, from your office’s perspective? KH I have to rely more upon other people to make things happen, but I’m blessed with




RESIDENTS OF THE WOODS at the Sum- mit should be proud. Together they raised $500 this past year toward the United Way’s annual campaign. The organization pitted neighborhood against neighborhood in 2020 to see which would be crowned the most generous. The Woods rose above the rest and, for its generosity, the neighbor- hood earned the title of the Most Charitable Neighborhood and was treated to a Kona Ice block party just before Christmas. The funds raised by The Woods most certainly helped the United Way surpass its annual fundraising goal of $1,142,000. The campaign collected more than $1.2 million before it was all said and done. Funds raised through the annual campaign benefit the Mountaineer Area Boy Scouts, Milan Puskar Health Right, Operation Welcome Home, and dozens of other local charities. These funded partners help the community in countless ways making Monongalia and Preston counties even better places to live, work, and play. For more information about the next campaign and to submit your own tax deductible donation, visit . written by holly leleux - thubron The winner is... United Way created a fun challenge to crown Morgantown's most generous neighborhood.


Moving to Morgantown ➼ MY HUSBAND AND I made the decision to move to Morgantown. Coming from New York, which has its own kind of edgy friendliness, I was rather gobsmacked by the people here. There is an open, trusting neighborliness that is refreshing and welcoming. Under my Covid mask, I found myself smiling a lot; it was just nice to be with nice people.

Here are a few of my other observations: 1 Morgantown is in the mountains and on the mountains and getting comfortable with the hilly roads takes some practice. Most difficult for me has been driving up a steep incline, only to find I can’t see over the front of the car as it points into the sky. I usually inch my way forward, hoping there are no obstacles in my path and that there is indeed a road that continues on and not a cliff. 2 While starting a social life has been difficult due to Covid, the area has a lot of outdoor recreation to offer. We hiked Coopers Rock one snowy, January morning. The peaceful quiet, combined with the fresh snow that had fallen at daybreak eased me right out of my busy mind and into the winter wonderland. I left feeling relaxed, calm and ready for the return to the work week. 3 I’ve been pleased with the range of restaurants in town. Dinner on the back deck at Tropics in Cheat Lake has been a consistent and convenient pleasure as we live on the

Lakeview Golf Course. We just have to walk across the course, sometimes dodging golf balls on the way. 4 It’s easy to support local businesses too. I spent a lovely afternoon shopping on High Street and downtown Morgantown has several darling shops like River Fair Trade, Hoot and Howl, the Old Stone House Gift Shop, and the Appalachian Gallery. 5 Living in a university town is exciting. The forward movement is palpable. Development and construction abound. From what I’ve seen and heard, the future for Morgantown looks to be filled with progressive planning, enticing promotion and big projects that will bring even more excitement to this cosmopolitan patch on the Monongahela river. But something tells me Morgantown, the city that’s stood on that river since 1785, will retain its West by-God Virginia roots. written by barbara dobilas




➼ QUIETLY OPENED IN SABRATON during the pandemic, Gritstone Climbing + Fitness puts Morgantown on the global map as a hub for climbing enthusiasts. The five-story facility, located on Eljadid Street just beyond Kroger, is the creation of West Virginia native Chris Bailey and co-owner John Burkhart. Bailey has been a climber for almost three decades. “For me, climbing was very formative, a place where I found a lot of acceptance and mentors and community,” he says. Morgantown has a strong outdoor recreation community, “and we thought that a climbing gym would be a great place for families to come and for people to find fitness and community.” Bailey and Burkhart are joined at Gritstone by General Manager Matt Hulet, a 20-year-veteran climber, climbing coach, and route- setter who says he and his wife left California to try out a new lifestyle. They chose Morgantown in part for the great climbing in the region— places like Coopers Rock State Forest locally and Seneca Rocks and the New River Gorge farther south in the state. This world-class facility is worth moving across the country for. Crafted by the leading manufacturer of climbing structures, Bulgaria’s Walltopia, the climbing walls were delivered in 14 shipping containers and erected over a period of months in 2020 by representatives of the manufacturer, Bailey says. The result is a sprawling facility where the instruction and practice cover both bouldering—low climbing without rope or harness—and roped climbing, from beginner and youth to expert. “We have an area we call the Learning Zone, shorter walls for people to get started on,” Bailey says. “That’s where we train our kids’ club and kids’ teams. It’s also the place where we do a lot of training, teaching classes on how to top rope and how to lead a climb.” A more expert bouldering section gives climbers 3,500 square feet of wall that projects at various angles and extends over 15 feet high. A Path Up for Anyone There’s a philosophy behind the placement of the climbing holds at Gritstone Climbing + Fitness.

But the centerpiece at Gritstone—its 50-foot climbing walls—are like nothing else anywhere near West Virginia’s premier rock climbing destinations. They offer 9,000 square feet of surface and more than 100 roped routes spanning the range of technicality. A critical aspect of running a world-class climbing gym is keeping the routes fresh. “Matt, as head route-setter, manages a team of people whose job it is to pull those sections of the wall off, power wash them, and reassemble new routes in their place,” Bailey says. They change sections out three days a week. “So any time you come to the gym, there’s a good chance there’s going to be a handful of new routes to try. It’s a constantly changing scenario.” Route design is a science and a philosophy in itself. “We aim for an extremely high quality of route, and also a high aesthetic, so when you



We set routes that are inclusive so different-sized people, different athletic abilities all can have unique, challenging experiences.” MATT HULET , Gritstone general manager and route-setter


➼ THERE’S A NEW CAFE IN TOWN that looks like it leapt right off the pages of Instagram. We’re talking about Cheat Lake’s latest addition: Almost Heaven Desserts, the place to go if you have a hankering for great- tasting coffee, salads, sandwiches, and sweets that look amazing, too. Victoria Simon runs the cafe. She’s familiar with the operation and worked it first hand as the daughter of Patti and Jim Simon, who together own Almost Heaven Desserts and Coffee in Bridgeport. The original location has a tremendous following, and the family hopes that popularity extends to the Morgantown community as well. The Simons had been scouting Morgantown locations for a while, hoping to expand north, Victoria explains, but nothing felt quite right until they stumbled upon a space on Cheat Road in the newly constructed Cheat Landing. Now it’s the place to go for a mid-day, coffee-fueled study session, the perfect space for catching up with a great friend, the place to stop for a healthy Acai smoothie bowl handmade for you, and home to some of the most delectable cheesecake varieties around. If you're in the area for lunchtime, consider stopping in for a healthy pre-made salad or fresh-off-the- press panini. The shop offers frozen coffees and milkshakes, too. And be sure to browse the retail section while you wait for cute stuff you never knew you needed. written by holly leleux - thubron Must-Stop Shop Find sweet treats and savory fare at Almost Heaven in Cheat Lake.

walk in, you see routes that look like cool pathways up the wall,” Hulet says. The color-coded routes draw your eye and your body up the wall—but they’re also designed to be physically fun and, just as importantly, inclusive. “In climbing, if you’re tall, you can reach things other people can’t. We set routes that are inclusive so different-sized people, different athletic abilities all can have unique, challenging experiences.” That inclusivity is part of the foundation at Gritstone. “Our gym is very diverse in body shape and people. It’s a very welcoming place, a community experience,” Bailey says—and that reflects the Gritstone team’s commitment to empowering the community as a whole. 1901 Eljadid Street, 304.241.4197,, @climbgritstone on FB written by pam kasey


A Modern-Day Mayberry New South Square is breathing new life into an entire city block in Granville. DO THIS

Mercantile Morgantown. Nancy Bruns—one of the founders of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in Charleston—and partner Joe Woods are creating a space that Woods describes as “Appalachian AF.” The pair plan to open

elopements, events and more. Also scheduled to open later this summer is Appalachian Salvage, which will quickly become the go-to spot in the region for architectural salvage materials. All of the buildings open onto a central courtyard. Nikki Bowman Mills works with her husband, Michael, to continue bringing New South Square to life. She’s no stranger to cheering on struggling towns, having created an initiative called Turn This Town Around in 2014. Pushing economic development initiatives throughout the state is her passion, and she considers Revision’s work in Granville a living laboratory. It’s also a way, she says, to show that average people willing to put in sweat equity can contribute to their communities in big ways. “I like the appeal of being on Main Street because so much of what we do every day is championing communities. Besides, where in Morgantown can you find a city block of flat land with this proximity and close to the interstate?” Bowman Mills says. “And to top it all off, Granville is an authentic town with authentic people that has the capacity to

the doors on June 1 and will use the space to shine a light on the very best Appalachian products. You’ll find local cheese and charcuterie, grab-and-go prepared foods, crafts, homegoods, art, an Appalachian- inspired cafe, and so much more. “Granville is a cool little town,” Woods says. “We see this as a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor of upward movement in this town. This space really granted us the opportunity to make it our own in a cool old building, and the vision for this Square is something we really wanted to be a part of.” Later this summer, visitors will also find The Silo in the Square. This unique event space will offer a rustic-meets-industrial feel, the perfect spot to host micro-weddings,

➼ THERE’S A NEW BUZZ on Main Street in Granville, and if you haven’t been through in a while, you’ll soon have plenty of reasons to. Adjacent to City Hall there’s a new space called New South Square. The Square is a warehouse redevelopment project by a new company created by Michael Mills and Nikki Bowman Mills called Revision LLC. One of the buildings—formerly Office Shoppers Paradise—was renovated first as the headquarters for New South Media— the pub- lisher of Morgantown, WV Living, WV Wed- dings, and Wonderful West Virginia magazines and dozens of other custom publications. It’s also home to Narrative by New South, a bou- tique custom content development agency. A second building will house Appalachian

become a modern-day Mayberry.” written by holly leleux - thubron


Historic Morgantown If you like historic homes and the stories behind them, this Instagram feed is for you. FOLLOW THIS

Mr. Cole was an engineer and designed railroad bridges across the country. In 1914, Harry and his brother, E.L., formed the company Cole Brothers, which was respon- sible for many buildings and roads throughout the region. Harry O. Cole built this lovely cottage on the corner of Wil- son Ave. and Linden Street circa 1924.

You can find some great scrolling at Historic Morgantown on Instagram, and learn something about our town's history, too. Each post has three images associated with a house in town and a short description of the home’s history. “I am fascinated by the history of Morgantown, especially my neighborhood, South Park,” says Instagrammer A.J. Hammond. But the history behind the homes is often forgotten, he says. “I hope that, by sharing the stories of these men and women who built the homes throughout Morgantown, we all will see the opportunity we have as a community to celebrate our past and build for the future.” New posts every few days—follow @historicmorgantown on Instagram. written by by pam kasey




➼ WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but the only thing we’ve missed more than dining out is live music and theater. So it’s exciting to see that the city has budgeted major upgrades to the Metropolitan Theatre and Ruby Amphi- theater in its 2021–26 Capital Improvement Plan—upgrades that are going to make down- town a frequent entertainment destination. To longtime residents, it may seem like just a few years since the fully restored 1924 Metropolitan Theatre started hosting shows again. But it was actually over a decade ago, and the wear and tear has begun to show. So the city is planning several years of invest- ments before the theater’s centennial in 2024. “They have 30,000 to 40,000 people coming through the Met most years,” says Vincent Kitch, the city’s director of Arts and Cultural Development. “Some of the seats are falling apart. And of course, when you replace the seats, that’s the time to do the carpet.” Both are to be replaced over the coming year. How about a more spectacular marquee to better project the theater’s glamor? The marquee and digital displays are budgeted for replacement in 2023–24. “The Met plays a huge role in ongoing downtown development, in the nightlife,” Kitch says. “It should have Live Theater is Back And downtown is your new go-to destination.

a stronger presence, and this will help us do that.” That, along with roof and HVAC replacements and the new seats and carpet will make the theater the jewel of downtown by the time of its centennial. Meanwhile, the major Ruby Amphitheater overhaul we couldn’t wait to see finished ended up being completed quietly during the pandemic. That means the new canopy for the seating, expansions to the stage and seating areas, and renovations at the depot are all yet to be enjoyed. But important refinements are still to come: a reserved seating area will be created over the coming year, and sound and lighting functions will be improved. “We don’t have the capability to hang sound or lighting equipment yet—that will let us do events in a more professional way,” Kitch says.

And in 2022–23, a major comfort boost: seat backs. The park now seats 1,200 in the bowl and has a full capacity of 2,800, so it’s easily pos- sible to hold events for several hundred people while observing distancing, as necessary. And programming is starting to ramp up, Kitch says. Summer events under discussion include local music and theater ensembles, touring concerts, comedy nights, and Shakespeare in the Park. The city’s 4th of July celebration may return to the riverfront, too. “We’re excited that things are starting to happen both at the Met and at the amphitheater,” Kitch says. “Everyone is champing at the bit to get into a venue and have performances. We’re going to do everything we can to support that.” written by pam kasey



WORK GLOBALLY, LIVE AND PLAY HERE Trading on the state’s rich outdoor recreation resources, the Ascend WV remote worker relocation incentive program offers a nice package of perks to people who can bring their jobs to West Virginia. Morgantown is its first site—and we all stand to benefit. written by pam kasey



IF you could keep your job and live anywhere at all, where would you live? It’s a question more people than ever are asking themselves. Employers and employees learned how to work from home in 2020 out of necessity, but in 2021 they know that remote work is not only possible—it can be preferable. By some estimates, almost half of salaried and professional employees can now do their jobs over the internet. The number of people who “telecommuted” pre-pandemic, as we called it back then? It’ll be double that, post-pandemic. Untethered from brick and mortar offices, these emancipated employees can live anywhere they can get online. And now WVU’s Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (Smith OEDC), in partnership with the state of West Virginia, is betting a lot of them would like to live where they find their vacation fun—where the raw, real outdoor adventures they usually savor during their weeks off are close by any day of the week. Launched on April 12, the Ascend WV remote worker relocation incentive program invites these newly free agents to consider bringing their jobs to West Virginia—in this initial stage, to Morgantown—and it offers support to help them get here and plug in. West Virginia is not the only state vying for this digital workforce—luring remote workers is just one aspect of the “Zoom boom,” the unex- pected ways the pandemic is changing the econ- omy. But here’s the kicker: Ascend WV leverages data showing that towns all across West Virginia sit close to as many outdoor adventure opportuni- ties as high-profile outdoor meccas like Asheville, North Carolina, and Boulder, Colorado—and a greater variety of those adventures than most. It’s a new way for Morgantown to think about itself, and it’s a point that sells to the kinds of energetic, independent people who make great friends and neighbors in any town they choose to call home. “Morgantown has the youth and the vi- brancy that come with a college town,” says Danny Twilley, assistant dean of the Smith OEDC. “It’s got the business development that a college town spurs. It’s got a pulse. And we basically have a trifecta of outdoor recreation with great paddling, great climbing, and great trails all close by. Morgantown is an outdoor town that doesn’t know it yet.” LIVE HERE AND BRING YOUR JOB WITH YOU The Ascend WV concept is simple: People who

can take their jobs anywhere they want are in- vited to apply for a package of support that helps them relocate and resettle in West Virginia—in this first part of the program, in Morgantown. It builds on the success of similar initiatives— most famously, Tulsa Remote. In 2018, the Tulsa, Oklahoma–headquartered George Kaiser Family Foundation offered $10,000 to anyone who would move to Tulsa for one year. It had never been done—no one knew what would happen. The program got more than 1,000 applicants on the first day. The point, of course, was not to host nomads for just one year, but to attract long-term, contributing members of Tulsa society. And in fact, Tulsa Remote has drawn more than 600 new residents and retained 90 percent past their first year. Similar programs have sprung up since in cit- ies like Savannah, Georgia, and Tucson, Arizona, and in states including Hawaii and Vermont. Programs differ in their offerings. Most include a financial incentive to offset the cost and inconvenience of uprooting and starting over, and Ascend WV will pay $12,000 over two years, with $10,000 spread across 12 monthly installments and $2,000 payable to anyone who stays for the entire two years. But it’s not a recruitment program, Twilley says—it’s a retention program. What makes a relocation incentive program work isn’t the mon- ey; it’s the programming that helps participants feel their new community’s charm and find by the end of it that they’ve put down roots. Here’s the Ascend WV package as it’s configured for Morgantown, laid out at : a networking hub with co – working space Ascend WV is partnering with the Vantage Ventures business development initiative at WVU’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics to offer co-working space to program participants for the initial cohort. The partnership with the business college runs deep, explains Smith OEDC Program Coordinator Paris Winfrey. For participants who are new to remote work, the college is developing a remote worker certification pro- gram that will coach them in time manage- ment and other skills needed to succeed in an independent work environment. Ascend WV participants will also have access to the col- lege’s and university’s considerable entrepre- neurship support resources. For a participant who has aspirations of starting a business, this is an invaluable perk. The co-working space will serve as home base, the place where participants will access

SNAPSHOT OF MORGANTOWN LOCATION North–south and eastbound interstates, 1 hour from Pittsburgh, 4 hours from Washington, D.C.; daily round-trips to Baltimore- Washington and Pittsburgh international airports COST OF LIVING Median home cost 82% of national average, cost of living 90% of national average TAXES State tax burden middle of the pack

BROADBAND Xfinity cable

internet and some additional options

EDUCATION Public schools

consistently among the best in the state AMENITIES Thriving arts, global cuisine, MLB Draft baseball, Big 12 sports


Morgantown, three Rotary clubs, strong entrepreneurship support HEALTH CARE A medical school, county and research hospitals, Level I trauma center


the program’s services and make connec- tions with nonprofits and activities across town. “We want it to be a community hub, a place where they come not only to work but also to socialize and network,” says Winfrey. outdoor recreation programming All types of recreational activities will be organized through the Ascend WV hub: “group bike rides on the rail-trail or at White Park, paddleboards on the Mon or a kayak day on Cheat Lake, weekend getaways in West Virginia’s best spots,” Winfrey says. This is a high-quality service: The Smith OEDC grew out of Adventure WV, a WVU program that has nearly two decades’ expe- rience offering WVU students adventure ed- ucation programming across the state and na- tion and internationally, so this organization knows how to lead trips, and staff members have experienced the personal growth and meaningful relationships that often follow. “We want to help participants connect with the state and with others in the community, really learn to fall in love with this place,” Winfrey says. Participants will have access to a free gear rental library, and outfitters across the state are participating in a Free Outdoor Recreation package that includes off-roading, rafting, ziplining, golf, and more. It’s this outdoor adventure component that organizers believe makes Ascend WV stand out among remote worker relocation incentive programs. This way of thinking is coded right into the DNA of the Smith OEDC, as you can see in the name: Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. The group aims to leverage the state’s natural environment to boost its health and economy. To ground this work, staff crunched some numbers in 2020 to understand just how unique the natural environment here is. AUTHENTIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURE CLOSE TO HOME Here in Morgantown, we live close to the great outdoors. Any day after work, if we want to, we can have a relaxing bike ride or a chal- lenging one, solve a boulder problem, paddle flatwater or rapids, cast a line, or hike through deep woods or to a scenic overlook. It’s a satisfying, adventure-filled way to live. But isn’t it like that in most rural places? In a word, no. Last year, the Smith OEDC undertook a


SHREDDING IT IN CENTRAL APPALACHIA Morgantown rivals some of the best outdoor towns in the country for access to high-octane adventures. Whitewater River Density of the Continental US


River density* (miles/sq. mile)

Very Low



* River density is calculated as the mileage of whitewater rivers per square mile radius for every location in the continental US. This map was created by mapping all whitewater runs listed in the American Whitewater (AW) National Whitewater Inventory (NWI). We are grateful to AW for providing NWI data.


Esri, HERE, Garmin, NGA, USGS, NPS Suggested Citation: Zegre, N., Strager, J., Strager M., Shafer, M., Kinder, P., Twilley, D., Corio, G. (2020). Whitewater Resources of the Continental United States-River Density. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.33281.89444 Contact -

large-scale asset-mapping effort to character- ize and compare the access that residents of cities across the U.S. have to exciting outdoor recreation experiences. “We were thinking, younger people are valuing experiences over things, and they’re considering where they live first before they consider their job,” says the Smith OEDC’s Twilley—this was pre-pandemic, pre–Zoom boom, but timely. “How do we incorporate outdoor recreation into their lives? Instead of, ‘I go there once a year,’ how can it be, ‘I do this during my lunch break,’ or after work, or on the weekend? We started looking at what was within 30, 60, 90 minutes’ drive of places—and that’s when we realized how much we had in close proximity right here.” For Morgantown, the data showed that we sit as close to as many paddling runs, climbing routes, and biking trails as places that might surprise you. “So, if you’re in Denver, you have to drive an hour to get to the good stuff,” Twilley

says. “Asheville, it’s one of the iconic outdoor towns—and when you compare our outdoor resources to theirs, we can compete at a very high level.” From Morgantown, a quick drive gets pad- dlers to dozens of runs, and an hour and a half reaches nearly 100. Did you know we’re a rock climbing powerhouse? Climbers have 1,200 climbing routes and boulder problems within an hour’s drive and 1,400 within an hour and a half, a lifetime of challenges. And mountain bikers can find 100 trails close to home and 200 just a little farther out. It’s a whole new lens on Morgantown’s natural assets—what we have, recre- ation-wise, and what we can develop. “You can’t build rock. You can’t build whitewater,” Twilley says. “A lot of other places don’t have the rock, don’t have the whitewater, so they’ve had to build trails. We have trails, too, and we can build more.” The Smith OEDC has already hired a renowned trail builder to do just that (see sidebar).


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The gates to Almost Heaven are now open. BRAD SMITH Huntington, West Virginia, native, former Intuit CEO, and a driving force behind WVU’s Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative

With a little work on the trail side, our paddling, climbing, and biking taken togeth- er will rival any town that’s considered an outdoors haven. ALL THAT , PLUS COLLEGE - TOWN DYNAMISM Even without billing itself as a premier out- door recreation destination, Morgantown’s culturally rich lifestyle has made it one of the fastest-growing towns in central Appalachia. Great dining? Check. As home to a flag- ship state university, we’ve long had the vari- ety of ethnic restaurants you’d expect to find in a much bigger city, plus everything from food trucks to steakhouses to farm-to-table fare. Craft beer scene? Check and double check: two breweries in town, plus a brewpub for a third. West Virginia–brewed beer is on tap everywhere, and local kombucha and hard cider can be found, too. The arts: The popularity of the visual arts is seen in the monthly Arts Walks downtown, an

annual Mo’town Studio Tour, Handcrafted Co- operative artisan markets, and frequent rotations at galleries. Public art is supported through the city’s active mural program, and fine arts are rep- resented through exhibits and programs at the Art Museum of WVU. Performing arts are alive and well here, too. Iconic venues ranging from a historical nightclub and a riverside amphitheater to a restored vaudeville stage and the university’s concert theater host local and touring music, dance, and theater performances in all genres. What about shopping? Morgantown has long supported a healthy mix of independent shops. But since it was named a Metropolitan Statisti- cal Area after the 2000 census, national chains have increasingly located here as well, includ- ing Barnes & Noble, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, and T.J. Maxx. That trend is continuing with the development at WestRidge Commons on the northwest side of town: Menard’s set up shop there over the winter, and Bass Pro Shops will follow later this year. Burlington, Home- Goods, PetSmart, Ross Dress for Less, and


Shoe Carnival are all on track to open in 2022. Morgantown’s growth can also be seen in the recent addition of an Aquatic Center and track and field facilities at the Mylan Park recreational complex, says Russell Rogerson, president and CEO of the Morgantown Area Partnership economic development organization. “We’re working on expanding the Morgantown Indus- trial Park, we’re launching the runway extension at the airport and creating a 90-acre commerce park. There’s WVU’s construction of a new business school and the growth of WVUMedi- cine—we continue to grow and have opportuni- ties ahead for years to come.” Add great outdoor recreation to all of that, and it’s a winning mix. “So few of the outdoors-centered towns are anchored by a major land grant institution,” Twilley says. “Youth, business, outdoors—it’s the recipe.” ASCEND MORGANTOWN Ascend WV expects to invite up to 50 appli- cants to Morgantown soon—by mid-sum- mer—and to use the experience here to shape roll-outs soon to come in Lewisburg and Shepherdstown. Who will be chosen? “We want people who value community,” Twilley says. “Peo- ple who want to help make us better and be engaged in a positive manner, and people who love the outdoors.” We may start seeing newcomers biking the trails, attending neighborhood association potlucks, and con- tributing at City Council meetings by fall. Fifty new residents is not a big influx for a town of 30,000-ish, but 50 engaged people in a year, or several years in a row, are likely to be noticed. Will it change Morgantown? “These folks will bring more to the community than just a job,” Rogerson says. “They’re going to bring ideas and entrepreneurialism and inno- vation with them. They’re going to add value and diversity to our thought processes as we continue to strive to become a better place.” Twilley likes to quote WVU Chambers College of Business and Economics Dean Javier Reyes on the attractiveness of an out- door lifestyle economy: “Javier says, ‘I’m not an outdoors person, but I love what you all bring to the table because you demand good food, beer and wine, shopping, and culture, and it’s all integrated into the fabric of the community.’” If he’s right, we might expect many more good things to follow. So if you could keep your job and live anywhere at all, where would you live? There are good arguments for staying right here.

HOT ON THE TRAILS The many paddling and climbing experiences we have quick access to in Morgantown are a happy accident of our location near mountains that have rushing rivers and exposed rock formations, and WVU’s Smith Outdoor Eco- nomic Development Collaborative is exploring partnerships to make access to whitewater and climbing routes even better. We have good hiking and biking trails, too—but world-class trails require both interesting terrain and savvy development. To support trail improve- ment, in March, the Smith OEDC hired Richard Edwards, a veteran trail de- veloper with the International Mountain Biking Association who has 20 years’ experience across the U.S. and internationally. He’ll be working across the state, but Morgantown is his initial focus. As it happens, IMBA is just finishing trail planning projects for WVU and for Morgantown, identifying gaps in the existing trail system and opportunities for trail improvements and new trails, and that lets Edwards hit the ground running. “We’re working on immediate implementation of some demonstration projects this year on WVU properties,” says Edwards, now the Smith OEDC’s Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Development Coordinator. “These demon- stration projects are focused on meeting some of the largest identified gaps. One of those would be good-quality beginner trails to meet the needs of the Youth Cycling Coalition that’s starting programs in Morgantown—we need trails that are accessible and achievable so we can have success for that.” Creating these first projects will boost local trail-building capacity. And the trails themselves will demonstrate a greater range of build techniques and trail types than are currently in use in Morgantown, Edwards says—progres- sive jump lines, bike parks, paved pump tracks, bicycle playgrounds, and singletrack sidewalks, for example. These will give him examples to work from as the program advances to other parts of the state. “We want to get some actual models on the ground to further the discussions about future projects and next stages,” he says. “It’s easier to talk about these things if we can get stakeholders to ride them.” He’s excited about the potential. “West Virginia’s terrain makes for iconic natural trails, and they’re often very difficult, especially for mountain bikers,” he says. “If you’re able to ride them, they’re truly special and in a lot of cases really unique. But in terms of getting new people into the sport and sharing awesome trails, other places have built more progressive trail systems with a full spectrum of difficulty and a better on-ramp.” That, along with better information and signage, is a lot of what he looks forward to working on in the coming years. What it means for Morgantown is 5 to 8 miles of new trail and greater trail connectivity this year with an emphasis on training and capacity-building, Edwards says, and 40 to 50 miles of new trail over the coming five years.






to Our Many & Varied


You can guess a lot about a person fromwhere they live. South Park? You love walking downtown for a bite to eat. First Ward? You take the kids to the park every other day. Suncrest? Your toughest decision is what’s for dinner, with so many options to choose from. Cheat Lake? Life is quiet, but modern. No matter where you live, Morgantown begs to be explored beyond your neck of the woods. There are charming streets, friendly neighborhood spots, quiet parks, and quirky hidden treasures everywhere you turn. Live like an insider with this unsanctioned but oh-so-much- fun guide to the city. * *AVERAGE 2020 SOLD PRICES BY NEIGHBORHOOD FROM THE NORTH CENTRAL WEST VIRGINIA REAL ESTATE INFORMATION SERVICE PROVIDED BY WHITE DIAMOND REALTY BROKER MELISSA HORNBECK.

Our 'Hoods«





RESTAURANTS AS GALLERIES Restaurants and galleries all over town display local art for sale. Like it with coffee? Love it on your dining room wall. BLUE MOOSE 248 Walnut Street @blue.moose.248 on Facebook BLACK BEAR BURRITOS 3119 University Avenue blackbearburritos. com HILL & HOLLOW 709 Beechurst Avenue @hillandhollowwv TABLE 9 40 Donley Street TERRA CAFE 425 Industrial Avenue @terracafewv FOR LOTS MORE LOCAL ART, CHECK THESE SHOPS APPALACHIAN GALLERY 270 Walnut Street @appgallery HOOT AND HOWL 245 Walnut Street @shophootandhowl

GENERAL AREA South of Deckers Creek between Kingwood and Jefferson streets up the hill to Grandview Avenue SCHOOLS * Mountainview Elemen-

you know there ’ s history here — you see it everywhere you look. Time slows down as neighbors walk their dogs past Morgantown High School, and even this big red-brick building on Wilson Avenue is historically significant and aesthetically pleasing. One of two public high schools in the city, MHS dates to the 1920s. The high school and more than 500 other buildings in the neighborhood are part of the South Park Historic District—most homes were built between 1900 and 1930. Even locals find new places rich in historic charm each time they walk this neighborhood. While it seems you can discover a fresh view of Morgantown around every corner and curve in South Park—a trip up Buckhannon Avenue offers a great vista—there are also secluded green spaces to enjoy. Hidden at the top of South Park there’s the King Street Mini Park, a one-acre open field with a playground, picnic tables, and plenty of room for the kids and dogs to roam. South Park homes are pricier than homes in some other neighborhoods,, but you get what you pay for: tree-lined streets, larger homes with distinctive architectural features, and landscaped front plots with cheery flowers and manicured shrubs. Lots lower on the hill offer easy walkability across the Pleasant Street Bridge to dining and entertainment downtown; many higher up enjoy those great views. Porch-sitting and strolling are favorite evening pastimes everywhere in the neighborhood, keeping neighbors easily in touch. Residents are often treated to the sights and sounds of the high school’s 250-plus-piece marching band, and there isn’t a neighborhood in town that gets more into the fun of Halloween.

tary, South Middle, Morgantown High

AVERAGE SALE PRICE 2020 $285,000 ON FACEBOOK “South Park Neighbors”


South Park holds a neighborhood-wide yard sale. *Find an address-specific school map at croppermap. com/monongalia


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