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Berkeley Springs is a close vacation spot with a lot of history

July 29, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Planning vacations close to home is a good option these days with the high cost of gas, and visiting the historic sites in and around Berkeley Springs seems to be a choice for many.

Recent weekends have been a good indication of people visiting Berkeley Springs instead of driving to farther destinations, said Laura Smith of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Smith said a Girl Scouts troop that usually goes to New England booked a cabin instead in Berkeley Springs.

Board member Jeanne Mozier said people have been visiting from Philadelphia and New York, and TBS is promoting that it only "takes a half of tank of gas round trip from D.C. and Baltimore."

She said two New York Times articles about Berkeley Springs helped bring attention to the town, and six weeks ago the online Frommer's Travel Guide listed Berkeley Springs as one of the top 10 budget travel places in the world.

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Tamme Marggraf, executive director of the Museum of the Berkeley Springs, said people can see many historic sites by going on walking tours in town.

The museum, which is part of the Washington Heritage Trail, is a good place to start, she said.

The museum is on the second floor of the historic Roman Bath House, the oldest public building in Berkeley Springs, right in the center of town in Berkeley Springs State Park.

"The museum's role is the preservation of the history of Bath's natural, cultural and social history, and along the Washington Heritage Trail," she said.

When double-decker billboards began dotting the landscape on W.Va. 9 in Morgan County two years ago, Mozier, a museum board member, took notice, along with other community members, especially when billboards got close to the Town of Bath, Mozier said.

Marggraf said Mozier, who also is president of the Washington Heritage Trail Byways committee, pushed for an end to the billboards along the trail.

Mozier set out to prove that all 54 miles of the trail in Morgan County fit the criteria as a scenic byway by showing that one or more criteria of cultural, historic, archeological, recreational, scenic and natural are on the Washington Heritage Trail.

Before a moratorium was passed by the Morgan County Commission in May 2006, a number of them were installed or had been approved for installation, she said.

"Billboards are insulting to the human eye and to the human landscape," Marggraf said. "It's not necessary to put a two-story sign up to get information to the public."

The historic sites on the trail are part of the museum's history, Marggraf said.

"The museum is the place where exhibits are available. It is the interpretive center and the bridge between current times and history," she said.

Marggraf said the trail needs to be preserved. The footsteps of those who walked along the trail are now being repeated by newcomers. The same beautiful landscape must be seen without a billboard to interrupt it, she said.

"We need to see it the way that saw it. We are repeating the steps," Marggraf said.

Driving to the Paw Paw Tunnel on the Washington Heritage Trail is a beautiful drive and worth seeing, Smith said.

The trail begins in Morgan County at the Berkeley County line on W.Va. 9 west to Berkeley Springs on U.S. 522 in the Town of Bath. It continues on W.Va. 9 to Paw Paw, W.Va. The trail extends to Sir Johns Run and runs through Cold Run Valley on Rock Gap Road to U.S. 522. The trail continues south on U.S. 522 to Fish Hatchery Road, turns east and heads over Sleepy Creek Mountain, Mozier said.

All 54 miles of the Washington Heritage Trail in Morgan County are protected against future billboards. In August 2007, the county commission said the Washington Heritage Trail met the criteria for a scenic byway, she said.

"Rather than a billboard, use modern technology wisely," Marggraf said. "Go online to www.museumoftheberkeleysprings.com. All exhibits are there to view to be inspired to visit, including what historic sites you'd like to visit in Berkeley Springs and surrounding areas," Marggraf said.

Walking tour pamphlets are available at the museum that includes Town of Bath historic sites, Berkeley Springs State Park landmarks and the Washington Heritage Trail, she said.

"Berkeley Springs has a wide array of attractions as an historic town," Mozier said.

"It's very walkable with many different kinds of shops, from art to homeopathic medicine. We have great restaurants, spas and, of course the Berkeley Springs State Park, which includes the open display of spring water for wading or just to enjoy," she said.

"Plan your trip," Mozier said. "Everything is easy to use on the (www.)berkeleysprings.com Web site, with links to individual businesses and what's happening that day."

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