Group fetes opening of exhibit at Darden Mill building

The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area celebrated the opening of their exhibit at the Darden Mill building on the corner of Railroad Avenue and First Street on Saturday.

The AFHA partnered with the National Forest Service and the Potomac Highlands Cooperative Weed and Pest Management Area for the exhibit, and this was the first time the Darden Mill has been able to open its doors to the public since restoration has started on the building. Cindy Sandeno, an ecologist for the Monongahela National Forest said, “This is a really great partnership between AFHA and the National Forest because they are talking about the forest and we are talking about possible threats to the forest.”

“We hope people will see the exhibit and then go out and explore,” Phyllis Baxter, executive director of AFHA, added.

The AFHA exhibit includes hanging displays that provide an overview of much of what their program covers. These displays include information about the 18 county areas that the AFHA covers in West Virginia and western Maryland. The exhibit also discusses local geology and waterways, in addition to the history of the local forests and the tools used in forestry. Many tools and a fire box were donated by the National Forest Service to put on display at the exhibit. Baxter said plans are in the works to open a small gift shop in the building that will sell souvenirs and artwork from local artisans.

The night included a silent auction and live auction during which many prints from the book, “The Pests that Girdle the Home of Tucker the Turtle,” were featured – along with passes to Smoke Hole Caverns, tickets for fully furnished rides on the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad passenger trains, and various prints from local artists. The silent auction showcased original illustration prints that were done by Molly Swailes, an AFHA AmeriCorp member. All proceeds from the auctions benefitted AFHA and CWPMA.

The open house also featured live music by the band The Elm Street Alleycats, a local three-piece string band. The event was catered by Mee Mee’z Cafe, and offerings included finger foods, punch and a Tucker the Turtle-themed cake.

“It is wonderful to see so many people so excited about conservation and to see the Darden Mill and the new AFHA exhibit so full of life,” Baxter said.

The AFHA exhibit is a permanent exhibit and will be open full time starting in the spring when the railroad museum is completed and the Darden Mill opens.