One of the main topics at the conference was the creation and development of a George Washington Heritage Trail that will identify historic Washington-related landmarks in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.
"I think you've got a real asset here in West Virginia," said James C. Rees, resident director of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.
"He spent so much time here when he was developing his character," said Rees.
Rees said Mount Vernon, one of the most popular tourist sites in the Washington, D.C., area, can help promote any tourism trail or festivals set up to honor George Washington.
West Virginia Tourism Director Alisa Bailey said plans for the George Washington Trail are still being worked out, but could be completed by early 1998.
That would be in time for numerous events planned for 1999 to mark the 200th anniversary of Washington's death, Rees said.
Mount Vernon and tourism officials expect to see a renewed interest in Washington's life. Rees said 19 books are planned on the first president in 1999 and Washington's funeral service will be re-enacted and work done on his tomb at Mount Vernon.
Eastern Panhandle tourism officials proposed a George Washington Trail about a dozen years ago, but the plan never got off the ground.
One proposed route would start at Harpers Ferry, travel down Flowing Springs Road to W.Va. 230 to Shepherdstown, W.Va., to Martinsburg, W.Va., on W.Va. 45 to Berkeley Springs, W.Va. It would then head south of U.S. 522 to a series of back roads in southern Morgan County, to W.Va. 51 back into Jefferson County, and over to W.Va. 9, where it would end at the Virginia line.
Many of the Washington family homes in the area are privately owned and are not open to visitors, but roadside markers could describe them, tourism officials said.
Other buildings are known to have been visited by Washington. He passed through the area repeatedly, first as a 22-year-old surveyor for Lord Fairfax, who owned most of Virginia in the 1740s, and later as president, when he established a "summer" White House in Bath, W.Va.
Bailey said that tourism brought an estimated $4 billion or more to West Virginia last year and provided 76,000 jobs with a $1.45 billion payroll.