Local students collaborate with state parks for handcrafted wood collectibles

West Virginia state park gift shops stock a variety of beautiful handcrafted goods, but did you know some of the artisans are local high school students?

Using wood from the Herbert Hoover High School Woodshop, students from the Nitro High School Simulated Work Program have produced custom 3D wood dioramas for each lodge park as well as the Company Store at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.

The unique partnership began a few years ago when the Nitro students began crafting wooden ornaments tailored to 15 state parks, according to

Jessica Dolin, retail merchandising manager for West Virginia State Parks.

“The program is set up to be a simulated business. They meet with a customer (me) and take notes on what my needs are and how they can accommodate,” Dolin said.

Students come up with prototypes for the customer’s review. After the initial assessment and tweaking a few designs, the image is ready for production. Using a laser wood engraver students cut wood pieces out and then layer and glue the 3D diorama together. Each piece has a sticker on the back that highlights the school and park name.

“Our feedback is always positive,” Dolin said. “Instructor Adam Wolfe hand delivered them to me here at home office and the staff at parks loved them so much they purchased two of them. Each park knows the involvement of the students and chats it up with customers.”

Gift Shop Goodies

Dolin encourages park visitors to shop at the gift shops for souvenirs and collectibles commemorating their experience.

“We always have new shirt, mug and sticker designs that are coming. Another collaboration is with Loving WV based out of Fairmont. This season we will be giving a bigger highlight to local talent and utilizing their designs on our best selling items.”

One unexpected outcome of the pandemic has been an increase in book sales, she added. When people began spending more time at home, their reading increased. They’ll be happy to know that new titles are added to gift shop shelves all throughout the year.

“Shoppers are loving the idea of West Virginia-based authors and tales of West Virginia. West Virginia Book Company based in Charleston has been great to work with. Owner Bill Clements is excellent about helping us add interesting new authors and making sure we have our all-time favorites in stock. Independent authors reach out all the time and it is wonderful to read their work.”

You’ll find gift shops at lodge parks as well as several other parks and forests throughout West Virginia. For more information or to inquire about shop hours, call the park you plan to visit.

Start planning your Almost Heaven state park adventure today!

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