Rural Development Process
For recreational economies
- Establishing a Shared Vision for Change Our vision is to help community stakeholders invest in a shared recreation resource to generate positive outcomes for the health and vitality of this region.
- Mapping the Landscape Analysis of baseline data to identify key issues and gaps, through completition of a community assesment report and recreation economies asset map.
- Establishing Shared Metrics Identifying indicators applicable to recreation economies, measuring performance indicators, and sharing an approach to sucess.
- Regional Branding & Identity A regional identity system and style guide were developed that allow residents an opportunity to be part of the forest story.
- Business and Entrepreneurial Development The Mon Forest Business Initiative offers business advice and funding assistance for professional services to any businesses located within the 10 counties of the MNF.
- Recreation Infrastructure Development Creating resources and new opportunities in support of the state's recreation economy.
- What's Next Looking to the future: defining goals, strategy, and an action plan
Establishing a Shared Vision for Change
|Monongahela National Forest Recreation Economies Steering Committee members:|
|Doug Arbogast||West Virginia University Extension Service Rural Tourism Specialist|
|Troy Waskey||USFS District Ranger, Cheat-Potomac Ranger District|
|Cindy Sandeno||USFS District Ranger, Marlinton Ranger District|
|Lisa Sharp||USDA Rural Development Director of Business & Cooperative Programs & Rural Development Coordinator|
| Emily Wilson-Hauger
||Woodlands Development Group
| Talia Schwelling
||USFS Resource Assistant
| Clinton Gabbert
||USFS Resource Assistant
| Megan Dister
Our vision is to help community stakeholders invest in a shared recreation resource to generate positive and tangible outcomes for the social, ecological, and economic health and vitality of this region.
- Provide a Gateway for Escape, Exploration, and Adventure in Diverse Landscapes.
- Build Sustainable Recreation Opportunities through Community Engagement.
- Foster a Recreation Economy with Direct and Indirect Benefits for the Local Community.
|Five Pillars for Developing Recreation Economies:|
|Community Health and Wellness|
|Business and Entrepreneurial Development|
|Regional Branding and Marketing|
| Sustainable Trail and Recreation Development
| Rural Workforce Development
Creating the Backbone Organization
Mapping the Landscape and Analyzing Baseline Data to Identify Key Issues and Gaps
Community AssessmentsThe WVU Rural Tourism Specialist developed a recreation economies gateway community assessment form. The FS Resource Assistants met with local stakeholders to conduct gateway community assessments in order to identify each community’s strengths and weaknesses related to recreation economies. Assessment categories included: trail to town connection, safety, parking, bike parking, signage, business/services, marketing/promotion, general impressions, streetscape, storefronts, amenities, character, trailheads and trail access among other items. A report highlighting common strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities was published and presented to the communities. Download the Gateway Community Assessment Report
MNF Recreation Economies Asset Map & Website
Discovery Junction Public Space Design
Peter Butler, Director of the School of Design and Community Development at WVU brought landscape architecture students to Marlinton to design the Discovery Junction in the Opera House lot and gather input from local residents on opportunities to design community improvements throughout the town. An $86,000 Land and Water Conservation Grant was awarded to support the development of Discovery Junction. Additional sponsorship funds have also been secured to complete the development of the site. Community design projects have also been completed in Richwood and White Sulphur Springs. Community residents from White Sulphur Springs and Richwood participated in Interactive Design and Planning Activities with students and faculty from West Virginia University’s Landscape Architecture Program in the School of Design and Community Development. Students will be creating community and site scale plans for these communities.
Establishing Shared Metrics
Economic Impact Analysis
Gateway communities lack research-based performance indicators to measure and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and clearly identify where additional resources are needed to enhance the recreation economy. Doug Arbogast, WVU Extension Rural Tourism Specialist, Daniel Eades, WVU Extension Rural Economist, and Dr. Jinyang Deng, WVU Rec, Parks, and Tourism Resources Program Professor collaborated the USFS Resource Assistants and community stakeholders to identify the indicators applicable to recreation economies and develop an integrated process for measuring and evaluating these performance indicators and sharing the impacts and best practice examples. Data was collected from businesses in Tucker and Pocahontas Counties and from visitors at several events. In addition, secondary data was analyzed. A report was presented to the communities in 2019 and a process is being established to continue to collect data in order to determine trends over time.Download the Economic and Quality of Life Indicators Report
Regional Branding and Marketing
Creating a Regional IdentityA branding of the symbiotic relationship of these communities with the Forest could help continue the benefits of working together that could grow the economies of the towns and promote environmentally responsible travel as well as sustainable planning.Working with community and Forest Service, a brand was co-designed that residents could see as opportunities to be part of the forest story.
10 meetings were facilitated by WVU Graphic Design and Rural Tourism Specialist in each MNF gateway community in 2018 to gather local stakeholder input into the process and co-design a regional identity. Local stakeholders were guided through the social design process and asked to help design an identity that will unite the gateway communities and also promote the unique aspects of each town. An identity system and style guide were finalized to present to the communities in early 2019.
Funding has been secured to purchase a welcome/gateway sign for each of
the current participating Mon Forest Towns. We hope to have the signs installed shortly after each town signs the partnership
agreement. Stay tuned for updates. In addition, a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation provides funding for a signage plan and mini-grants to support priority
Business and Entrepreneurial Development
The Mon Forest Business Initiative
With funding support from an ARC/EDA/Benedum grant, the Woodlands Development Group and Natural Capital Investment Fund, Mon Forest Business Initiative offers business advice and funding assistance for professional services to any businesses located within the 10 counties of the Monongahela National Forest region of West Virginia. Below is a brief summary of program accomplishments to date:
- Businesses assisted in the last year – 48 (advisors one-on-one assistance, third-party TA assistance, and group trainings)
- Communities served – 21 (Beverly, Canaan, Cassity, Circleville, Davis, Duo, Durbin, Elkins, Franklin, Lewisburg, Mt. Storm, Montrose, Parsons, Petersburg, Philippi, Richwood, Ronceverte, Thomas, Valley Bend, Webster Springs, White Sulphur Springs)
- Jobs created – 8.5
- Jobs retained – 27
- Loans approved - $983,500 (7 closed totaling $599,500, 3 in underwriting)
Interpretive Guide TrainingWith funding support from the USFS Tucker Community Foundation agreement 10 Canaan Valley Master Naturalists were able to attend a National Association of Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guide Training offered by WVU’s Rural Tourism Specialist and become Certified Interpretive Guides. The interpretive programs they developed were offered at Canaan Valley State Park in the spring, summer, and fall of 2018. A 2019 Flex-e-Grant from the West Virginia Development Office will provide funding for 15 additional guides from the MNF to become Certified Interpretive Guides. The four-day Certified Interpretive Guide Training is being offered to provide a certification in interpretation through the National Association of Interpretation. The NAI CIG training and certification is being recognized as the standard for interpretive guides across the country and internationally.
Recreation Infrastructure Development
Snowshoe-Highlands Ride Center
A partnership was established with Snowshoe, Pocahontas County CVB, USFS, Poca Trails, WVU, IMBA, Town of Marlinton, Pocahontas County Commission, Greenbank NRAO, State Parks and Forests, and surrounding communities. Nine meetings were convened in 2018 to develop the Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center and apply for Ride Center evaluation and certification with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The vision is to become the hub of a thriving mountain biking community by making Pocahontas County, WV and the surrounding region a marquee biking destination. Project partners collaborated in 2018 to conduct a comprehensive inventory of mountain bike trails and classify them according to difficulty level and develop a database and ARC GIS online map which includes trails, other recreation resources, and supporting services and amenities.
This information was then entered into the IMBA Ride Center application and organized according to their application criteria and submitted to IMBA in July, 2018. IMBA conducted a comprehensive Ride Center assessment in the spring of 2019 and announced in early August 2019 that the newest recipient of their IMBA Ride Center™ designation is the Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center located in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
The Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center was awarded bronze designation by IMBA, meaning that the area meets specific trail, services and mountain biking experience criteria that elevates the overall mountain biking experience above the average destination and offers a variety of singletrack riding for all levels of riding abilities. According to the Ride Center assessment report, IMBA recognized that a strong coalition of stakeholders, including commercial operations (Snowshoe Resort), local advocates (Pocahontas Trails), and land managers (United States Forest Service) is working towards improving the quality and quantity of trails in the region. According Dave Wiens, IMBA Executive Director, “It is our pleasure to welcome Snowshoe Highlands as IMBA’s newest Ride Center, and first Ride Center in West Virginia. The IMBA Ride Center designation solidifies the enthusiasm for mountain biking in Snowshoe Highlands and recognizes it as one of today's exceptional mountain bike destinations,” More information can be found at IMBA's website.
IMBA Trail Solutions
The 2020 Benedum Grant provides funding for International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Trail Solutions to work with the Mon Forest Towns Steering Committee, Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center working group, and the Town of Marlinton to develop a detailed plan for purpose built mountain bike trails that can diversify the economy of Pocahontas County, WV, act as catalyst for grant submissions related to trail funding opportunities (i.e. Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Grants), and serve as the basis for the trail design-build scope of work which in turn would provide job training and youth engagement opportunities to support the development of resilient communities and a diversified economy.
The proposed project area is on a section of MNF land near the town of Marlinton in the Marlinton/White Sulphur Ranger District. A map of the Forest Service’s property that has been recommended for mountain bike trail development is included in the appendix. This project would provide technical assistance from IMBA Trail Solutions who has extensive experience working on large-scale projects with multiple stakeholders including the USDA Forest Service. The plan would focus on developing stacked loop purpose-built mountain bike trails.
Performance Agenda, Signage Plan, Website, Trail Planning GrantIn 2020 a Performance Agenda will be developed for Mon Forest Towns which includes a shared vision for tourism and goals, objectives, and action strategies with listed responsible parties as well as the development of a mini-grant program, assistance program for project partners, and identification of needed additional resources. In addition to the development of the Performance Agenda, funding was received through a grant from the Benedum Foundation to incorporate the Mon Forest Towns identity system into a regional signage plan, finish the Mon Forest Towns website and regional asset map, and conduct trail planning in partnership with the International Mountain Biking Association to connect communities to trails and capture economic opportunities for mountain bike trail development.
WVU Masters of Public Administration Students Capstone ProjectThree WVU Master of Public Administration students in a fall 2019 capstone seminar course conducted research on model gateway communities in support of strategic planning in Mon Forest Towns under the direction of Dr. Chris Plein with support from Doug Arbogast. This capstone project includes a comparative analysis with other gateway communities across the country and communication with each of the town reps. to further discuss goals for the partnership, current needs, and priority projects.
USFS Resource AssistantsThrough a partnership with the Greening Youth Foundation a new batch of USFS Resource Assistants was hired in fall 2019. With supervisor support, the interns will organize meetings to bring partners together to help develop a shared natural resource and recreation vision; actively seek out opportunities for the Forest Service to integrate more fully into the community, and coordinate events and activities to promote the outdoors to people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences.
WV Community Development Hub HUB CAP ProgramThrough WV Community Development Hub HUB CAP ProgramThrough the support of the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative program, the One Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the WV Community Development Hub has completed three rounds of its HubCAP Communities of Achievement program, providing multi-year community development coaching, technical assistance and project execution support to 21 communities in West Virginia. Each iteration of the program has been an improvement on the previous round, improving and refining the program to ensure that the highest quality of support is provided to each new class. In Fall 2020, The Hub will launch the fourth round of our HubCAP program working with the communities of Cowen, Franklin, Petersburg, Elkins, Marlinton and White Sulphur Springs.
HUB CAP Program
- $55,000 USFS Joint Chiefs funding. Supported WVU community engagement to provide meeting facilitation, asset mapping, interpretive guide training, student support, and develop the Mon Forest Towns brand.
- $8,000 Flex-e-grant from West Virginia Development Office to WVU to support asset mapping for IMBA Ride Center.
- $3,446 WVU Community Engagement Grant for community design in Marlinton, WV
- $7,500 WVU Davis/Extension College seed grant to develop recreation economy indicators of success
- $8,000 Flex-e-Grant for 15 guides to become Certified Interpretive Guides.
- Woodlands Development Group and Natural Capital Investment Fund secured $1.3 million grant from ARC, EDA, and Benedum to support entrepreneurial development in the MNF gateway communities.
- $185,000 Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation Grant in 2020 to support development of a performance agenda, website, asset map, signage plan, signage mini-grants, and MTB trail planning under resources attained.