Building Creative Communities for the New Economy
Town of Welch Refuses Defeat
The City of Welch got a lot of press in July when Mayor Martha Moore announced plans for a riverfront park.
A park on the Tug River? In Welch?
The mayor can be excused if she gets a little testy when people outside McDowell County suggest that maybe everyone who’s still there should pick up and leave.
She grew up there when the population rivaled Kanawha County’s, and she still sees beauty in Welch’s grand old downtown buildings. A wife and mother who entered town government in 1984, she and a few stalwart citizens have kept the town from sinking after floods, fires, and Big Coal’s pullout.
“When I was elected to town council in 1984, I thought I was going to plant flowers and put out park benches. Ha,” Moore says. “It was a rude awakening.”
Through tireless, creative wrangling she secured a Marquis Cinema, funding to address critical water and sewage problems, and a federal prison that will bring in 40 percent of its needed employees. She has great ideas for the housing she needs, but she needs more believers.
“We’re still struggling with issues of how things have always been done,” she says. “Why don’t we quit? It’s tempting sometimes, but we’re not quitters. We’ll keep working to make things better.”
She envisions tree-lined streets, upscale housing, shops and restaurants in those grand downtown buildings, and friendly folks enjoying the riverfront park. The architect’s rendering shows kayaks on the river.
“Why don’t we leave?” she asks. “We’re Welch. We hope. There are people here who want to take a chance on doing things. This is our home.”