The Convention and Visitors Bureau will receive assistance in attracting outdoor tourists
Posted at 12:00 on Saturday, August 20, 2022
Lawrence County will get help attracting recreational tourists to help boost the local economy.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau and its partners had been accepted into an assistance program.
Marty Conley, director of the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it was requested last fall and “we didn’t get it. But you don’t get everything.”
This year was different.
“I got a phone call about a month ago from a representative of the Appalachian Regional Commission who had seen our application,” Conley said.
ARC is designed to help Appalachian counties and had teamed up with the US EPA and other agencies to help create economic opportunities in communities through the use of the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program .
And Lawrence County was one of 25 small, rural communities across the United States that the program helped.
“We’re very excited,” Conley said, adding that they’ve formed a steering committee to determine what recreational resources the county has, such as Wayne National Forest and the Ohio River, and what can be done to improve access to these resources to do so. it is more attractive to outdoor tourists. With more tourists there are more economic possibilities for local businesses.
Conley said the steering committee is made up of six people who will set the process in motion.
“It will grow as we do more things with people across the county,” he said. Next spring they will begin having a series of meetings with a group of consultants called Revised Strategies.
A federal planning team will work with the steering committee over four to six months, with a two-day community workshop as the focal point.
Participants will work together to develop strategies and an action plan to grow their local outdoor recreation economies.
“We will start with three Zoom meetings, we will talk about the area, we will talk about what we have here and what we need here. We’re going to boil it down to what are our recreational assets and are they impacting the economy, and if they’re not, how can they,” Conley explained. The group of consultants will then come to Lawrence County and check things like the cities and WNF. “The goal is to point us in the right direction for the funding, for the assets that we need for outdoor recreation. This is all about outdoor recreation and economically affect the community”.
Conley said it was a good time to learn how to get that help.
He had been working with the Voinovich Center on a recreation plan and they were about to go public to get some public feedback.
“We’ve never had a recreation plan, so things seem to be lining up,” Conley said. “The recreation plan will be an additional addition as we go forward. We’re going to tear it all down and rebuild it.”
Recreational tourism has become a big business opportunity for Appalachia with ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin citing statistics that the travel and tourism industry contributes $4.5 billion in local tax revenue to the region and employs more than half a million people.
The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (REC) program builds on our region’s economic development potential by investing in Appalachian local heritage and natural assets, resulting in more vibrant downtowns and greater growth in the outdoor recreation industries,” Manchin said.