Photo from Friends of Southwest Virginia
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Appalachian Trail Center in Damascus, VA will take place on February 4th at 11:00 AM. The groundbreaking will take place at the site of the new center on Laurel Avenue across the street from Town Hall.
The million-dollar center is a joint project of the Town of Damascus, Friends of Southwest Virginia and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The project was funded through an Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER 2016 grant for coal-impacted communities, a Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission grant for economic development, and general funds from the Town of Damascus.
Construction of this Appalachian Trail Center will provide visitors with direction and ideas for the many recreational activities and hospitality offerings available throughout Southwest Virginia, not only the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has committed to providing programming and staff for the Center once constructed.
“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is deeply committed to our partnership with Damascus and we look forward to providing visitors with information about the A.T., its history and culture, and other recreation assets throughout Southwest Virginia,” said Andrew Downs, Senior Regional Director – South for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Damascus, or Trail Town USA, is situated where seven nationally-known trails intersect. The hills and peaks of the Appalachian Mountains call residents and tourists to this authentic small town in Southwest Virginia.
“Most people don’t realize they are standing on the Appalachian Trail when they stand on Laurel Avenue in downtown Damascus,” said Gavin Blevins, Damascus town manager. “This new center will be the town’s opportunity to educate locals and visitors alike on the hundreds of recreational opportunities within minutes of Damascus.”
Friends of Southwest Virginia’s SWVA Outdoors initiative started in 2012 with the goal of developing the outdoor recreation industry cluster in Southwest Virginia (SWVA) in order to reap the economic benefits of the many natural assets in our region. The first phase of this initiative supported the development of stakeholders groups in eight anchor recreation areas throughout SWVA: the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Plateau, Breaks, Clinch River, Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, High Knob, Mount Rogers, and New River. Cultural and natural asset development and access in communities and surrounding environs will be incorporated in ongoing capital improvement and planning.
“The Damascus Trail Center is one of multiple projects underway in Southwest Virginia to diversify the economy and transform our natural and cultural assets such as the legendary Appalachian Trail into world-class destinations,” said Chris Cannon, executive director of Friends of Southwest Virginia. “We may not always realize how special this place is, but the world loves learning our story and then visiting us.”
Damascus received both a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding to work on downtown revitalization and enhancing outdoor assets within the town. A part of the master plan for downtown Damascus is the construction of a destination center as a focal point for visitors.
Funding partners include the Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development, and Friends of Southwest Virginia. A further partnership that includes the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, the Town of Damascus, and Friends of Southwest Virginia ensures that this project will be successful and sustainable beyond this single grant to build the Trail Center.