The Convention and Visitors Bureau will receive assistance in bringing tourists to nature

Published at 12:00 on Saturday, August 20, 2022

Lawrence County will receive assistance to bring in recreational tourists to help improve 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 they applied for it last fall and “we didn’t get it. But you don’t get everything.”
This year was different.

“I got a call about a month ago from a representative of the Appalachian Regional Commission who had seen our application,” Conley said.

ARC was created to help Appalachian counties and had joined forces with the US EPA and other agencies to help create economic opportunity in communities using the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program.

And Lawrence County was one of 25 small, rural communities across the U.S. to be helped by the program.

“We’re very excited,” Conley said, adding that they have formed a steering committee to determine what recreational resources the county has, such as the Wayne National Forest and the Ohio River, and what can be done to improve access to those resources. to make it more attractive to foreign tourists. With more tourists comes more economic opportunities for local businesses.
Conley said the steering committee consists of six people who will begin the process.

“It’s going to grow as we do more things with people from around 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-facilitated 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 do they impact the economy, and if they don’t, how can they,” Conley explained. Then the advisory group will come to Lawrence County and check things like cities and WNF. “The goal is to point in the right direction for funding, for the assets we need for outdoor recreation. It’s all about outdoor recreation and economic impact in the community.”

Conley said this was a good time to hear about getting this help.

He had been working with the Voinovich Center on a recreation plan and they were about to go public to get some feedback from the public.

“We’ve never had a recreation plan, so it really seems like things are lining up,” Conley said. “The recreation plan will be an additional addition as we move forward. We’re going to tear everything down and rebuild it.”

Recreational 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 employs over half a million people.

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 assets, which will lead to more vibrant downtowns and expanded growth for recreation industries. outdoor recreation,” Manchin said.

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