MOUNDSVILLE - Tourism is a driving force behind plans to revitalize the city, and the Moundsville Economic Development Council helps attract people to the community's many destinations.
The MEDC's Suzanne Park said people often come to visit the former West Virginia Penitentiary, take tours and then ask what else there is to do in Moundsville. Park said she directs them to local businesses and restaurants, but she thinks there is a lot of opportunity for the city to do better.
Local places Park recommends usually include the Marx Toy Museum, the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, the Fostoria Glass Museum and the restaurants and businesses along Jefferson Avenue. She said when people visit Moundsville, they often come for one of the more well-known attractions and also would like to shop and eat.
The Strand Theatre in downtown Moundsville is one of several historic sites that appeals to visitors, according to local business owners.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
"We're trying to build a reason to come here and do more than one thing," Park said. "We want to become known as a destination attraction."
"When we do have events here in Moundsville, it's amazing how many people comment on all that we're doing," said Butch Inclan of Frames and Fortunes on Jefferson Avenue.
"They're always wondering what we're going to do next."
Inclan mentioned the Moundsville Activities Committee has been trying to put together packages through tourism agencies to bring people into Moundsville and give them the opportunity to explore.
He said buses usually come into town, drop people off at the prison, pick them up and leave town. Inclan suggested forming programs that bring tourists to Jefferson Avenue, perhaps to visit the Marx Toy Museum or the Strand Theatre and have lunch at a local restaurant before proceeding to the penitentiary.
"Right now, people are bypassing Jefferson Avenue," Inclan said.
He added that construction of a hotel near Wal-Mart off W.Va. 2 is likely to help local businesses, since visitors to Moundsville in the past have had to seek accommodations in Wheeling previously, taking business away from Moundsville.
Gerald "Eli" Heller, owner of Peggy's Flower Shop, said the community needs to encourage new business and maintain a pleasant shopping atmosphere. He mentioned that businesses might consider coordinating hours of operation during busy tourism times.
"I think all small businesses need to work together," Heller said. "We need to fill the storefronts and maintain the historic beauty of the buildings. If that means coordinating hours of operation, then so be it."
The former West Virginia Penitentiary, operated by the MEDC, reopens for tours and events on Monday.