The Convention and Visitors Bureau will receive support to attract outdoor tourists
Published Saturday 20 August 2022 00:00
Lawrence County will receive help to attract recreational tourists to improve the local economy.
It was announced Wednesday that the Lawrence County Bureau of Conventions and Visitors and its partners have been enrolled in a relief program.
Marty Conley, director of the Lawrence County Bureau of Conventions and Visitors, said they applied for it last fall and “we didn’t get it. But you don’t get everything.”
This year was different.
“About a month ago I received a call from a representative of the Appalachian Regional Commission who had seen our application,” Conley said.
ARC was created to serve Appalachian counties and had partnered with US EPA and other agencies to help create economic opportunity in communities through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities utility program.
And Lawrence County was one of 25 small and rural communities across the United States that benefited from the program.
“We’re very excited,” Conley said, adding that they have formed a steering committee to determine what recreational resources the county has, like Wayne National Forest and the Ohio River, and what can be done to improve access to those Resources to improve it more attractive to outdoor tourists. With more tourists comes more economic opportunities for local businesses.
Conley said the steering committee consists of six people who will start the process.
“It’s going to grow as we do more things with people from across the county,” he said. Next spring they will begin a series of meetings with an advisory group called Revised Strategies.
A federal planning team will work with the steering committee over a period of four to six months, centered around a two-day facilitated community workshop.
Participants will work together to develop strategies and an action plan to grow their local outdoor recreation economy.
“We’re going to start with three Zoom meetings, talking about the area, talking about what we have here and what we need here. We’re going to boil it down to what our recreational assets are and how they affect the economy, and if not how can they do that,” Conley explained. Then the advisory group will come to Lawrence County and review things like the cities and WNF. “The purpose is to point in the right direction for funding, for the assets we need for outdoor recreation. This whole thing is about outdoor recreation and economic impact on the community.”
Conley said this is a good time to see if that support is available.
He had been working with the Voinovich Center on a recovery plan and they were going public to gather feedback from the public.
“We never really had a recovery plan, so it really looks like things are coming together,” Conley said. “The recovery plan will be an added bonus as we progress. We will tear everything down and rebuild it.”
Leisure tourism has become a major business opportunity for Appalachia, with ARC Federal co-chair Gayle Manchin citing statistics that the travel and tourism industry brings $4.5 billion in local tax revenue to the region and over half a million people busy.
The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) program builds on our region’s economic development potential by investing in Appalachia’s local heritage and natural resources, which will result in more vibrant downtown areas and expanded growth of the outdoor recreation industry,” said Manchin .