ABINGDON —Friends of Southwest Virginia, in partnership with the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, has launched a plan designed to promote outdoor recreation opportunities and grow the economy in the region.

Through a grant awarded to Friends of Southwest Virginia from the Thompson Charitable Foundation and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the organization engaged Vermont-based outdoor asset analysis firm The SE Group to oversee the Cumberland Plateau Outdoor Economy Asset Analysis and Development Plan, which includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. The SE Group is a planning firm that works with recreation tourism communities across the country to help create extraordinary experiences in their region.

“Outdoor recreation is a vital aspect of tourism in Southwest Virginia,” said Kim Davis, executive director of Friends of Southwest Virginia. “Creating this plan in partnership with the CPPDC and community partners provides an opportunity for our region to work across county lines in promoting and developing the creative economy. This project, along with other key projects and initiatives throughout the region, is helping to build on the plans and vision for Southwest Virginia to be a world-class outdoor recreation destination.”

Throughout the week of Aug. 23, The SE Group toured recreational and cultural assets in the four-county area, met with local business owners, recreation advocates and officials, and experienced a number of downtowns. This visit enabled the team to conduct an existing conditions analysis of the region’s opportunities and gaps, engage stakeholders, explore partnerships and create a recreation and economic development roadmap for the Cumberland Plateau.

The SE Group is also working with CHM Government Services to understand the tourism market for recreation in the region and with Path Less Pedaled to identify bicycle tourism opportunities.

“We have long believed in the importance of tourism and quality-of-life development projects within our four counties,” CPPDC Executive Director Jim Baldwin noted. “We’re excited to see the results of this plan and expect The SE Group’s work to result in a cohesive roadmap for future projects that continue to complement our efforts to diversify our economy and build an attractive place to work and call home.”

Among the highlights of the exploratory trip for The SE Group were visits to the Back of the Dragon Welcome Center in Tazewell County, Breaks Interstate Park in Dickenson and Buchanan counties and the Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve in Russell County. The group also visited Lincolnshire Lake and Cavitt’s Creek in Tazewell, as well as the Clinch River Walking Trail in Richlands and the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum. Additionally, the team toured the Cleveland River Bend Campground, Cleveland Barrens and Tank Hollow Falls in Russell County, met with representatives from the Ralph Stanley Museum in Dickenson County, and collected input from Spearhead Trails representatives while visiting the Coal Canyon ATV Trailhead located at Southern Gap, among many other stops throughout the planning district’s four-county footprint.

Friends of Southwest Virginia expects to receive the first draft of recommendations for the Cumberland Plateau Outdoor Recreation Analysis from the SE Group in November, with the final plan eyed for completion by early 2022.

About the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia:

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation is the coordinating body for cultural heritage tourism and economic development efforts fostering Southwest Virginia’s creative economy. Through a supporting nonprofit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the combined entities help localities, businesses, individuals, artists, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.

A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort.

For more information about the Friends of Southwest Virginia, visit www.FriendsofSWVA.org.

— Contributed

Recommended Videos