Archeological dig to take place on Greenbrier River Trail in September

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Plans for the new trailhead parking and picnicking site next to Greenbrier River Trail.

The Board of Greenbrier River Trail Association (GRTA) has recently committed to doing an archeological study that will allow a new trailhead parking and picnic area to be developed near Lewisburg.

GRTA is a non-profit citizens group that advocates for the 77-mile rail-trail in Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties of southeastern West Virginia.

Scheduled to begin Sept. 14, the archeological dig will be a homecoming of sorts for the three professional archeologists that will lead it. Brothers Stephen and David McBride, and Kim Arbogast McBride, Stephen’s wife, all based in Lexington, KY, are natives of Greenbrier County. They all graduated from Greenbrier East High School in the early 1970s. Their previous projects in West Virginia include investigations of frontier forts in the Greenbrier and New River valleys.

The study will occur on a 5.5 Acre parcel next to the Greenbrier River Trail near Caldwell, three miles east of Lewisburg. The site is proposed for a new trailhead parking and picnicking area that will supplement the current heavily-used parking lot at the southern end of the Trail. Volunteers are being recruited to assist the archeologists in excavating and cleaning artifacts for any part of the 3-week duration of the project.

GRTA has started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for it with a goal of $23,250. https://www.gofundme.com/f/greenbrier-river-trail-archeology-dig

Why is the trail group doing this?

GRTA and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) were cosponsors of grants in 2016 under the Recreational Trails and Transportation Alternatives Programs using Federal funds administered by West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH). GRTA provided matching funds. Under the terms of that agreement, GRTA was to transfer to DNR title to the 5.5 Acre parcel of land it had previously purchased near Caldwell. That transfer was completed in 2016, leaving $137,000 in remaining grant money for development of the trailhead.

The Phase I archeological study required under these grants discovered artifacts that included a projectile point from the Early Archaic period, approximately 9,000 years ago. As a result, the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) required that a Phase II archeological study be performed.

The consultants on DOH’s list eligible for Federal grants did not submit study proposals satisfactory to DOH. Therefore, DOH allowed GRTA to solicit services of other Registered Professional Archeologists acceptable to SHPO, with the provision that GRTA pay 100% of the costs. A revised Scope of Work submitted by McBride Preservation Services, LLC, of Lexington, KY, was approved by SHPO in June, 2019, and GRTA has contracted with them to begin the study on Sept. 14, 2019.

Dr. Kim McBride provided the following account:

“This archaeological site located at the Greenbrier River Trail parking lot location was found by a survey team from the WV Department of Highways, and is being further investigated because the new parking lot project falls under federal requirements. The artifacts found will be analyzed for a report, and then curated at the state curation facility, the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville.”

“The artifacts found during the initial survey are mostly small pieces of chert (often called flakes) which are the leftovers from the production of stone tools by Native Americans. Two of these flakes have been worked on to give them a sharper edge, suggesting some sort of cutting or sharpening activity. Two fragments of bifacial tools were found. The only complete artifact from the prehistoric occupation and the only one which provides a clue of the time frame of the occupation is a hafted biface (spear point) of a type called Kirk, which dates from the Early Archaic archaeological culture, roughly 6,000 to 8,000 B.C. These artifacts suggest a small encampment site by Native Americans.”

Anyone can join this community effort! People can join the volunteer effort to assist with digging and sifting for artifacts or washing them after the excavations are complete. Contact Nancy Harris at nancy.harris.wv@gmail.com

All are asked also join our fundraising effort! GRTA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit group, has an 11-member volunteer Board. All contributions will go 100 percent to pay for the professional archeological consultants. Mail tax-deductible contribution to: Greenbrier River Trail Association, P.O. Box 203, Marlinton, WV 24954, or go to GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/greenbrier-river-trail-archeology-dig.

More information on the Trail and GRTA is at www.greenbrierrivertrail.com