Date of Award

Spring 6-3-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Colgate Searle

Second Advisor

Michael Blier


The Cumberland Mountains of Southern West Virginia are home to mountaintop removal, with the Guyandotte River watershed exhibiting some of the most extreme examples. The strip-mining practices have removed fertile soil, altered water courses, deeply polluted the land, and stripped people of their wealth – prosperity in happiness and abundance of possessions and resources. This has resulted in some of the nation’s worst health, education, and economic conditions. The communities of this watershed live at the heart of the economic and political forces that undermine community and ecological well-being.

Southern West Virginia has a deep and continued history of living off the land. This culture, however, has declined as mining and soil degradation have increased. To restore the health and vitality of the people and ecosystem, the people of these communities need to transform how they interface with their land. The foundation of sustained cultural and economic expression is healthy soil and the human activities that support them. Regenerating soil health by revivifying agrarian culture develops a resilient economy built from the bottom up.

This thesis begins by exploring the forces that undermine community resilience broadly and then contextualizing them to communities of Gilbert and Justice, WV. The concluding proposal subverts the exploitative forces that eroded the Guyandotte communities through the revivification of a local agrarian economy. By moving from linear mining to cyclical harvesting, the community can reach a dynamic, sustained state of economic and cultural expression.


View exhibition online: Aleece Mount, The Root of Culture



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