Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement helps Spearhead Trails plan for the future

The Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement, in collaboration with Aspire Marketing and ConsultEcon, was selected by Friends of Southwest Virginia to work on an economic impact analysis and strategic plan for Spearhead Trails, an initiative developed by the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA). SRRA serves the counties of Tazewell, Buchanan, Russell, Dickenson, Wise, Scott, and Lee, as well as the City of Norton.

Spearhead has over 400 miles of trails over seven trail systems: Coal Canyon, Jawbone, Mountain View Trail, Pocahontas, Haysi’s Ridgeview, Stone Mountain, and Thunderstruck. The trails offer places for a variety of outdoor activities, including all-terrain vehicle riding, hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The project team will develop a business and strategic plan that includes a marketing strategy that will enhance the organization’s economic impact, sustainability, and growth potential.

“We are honored to have received support from the Appalachian Regional Commission for this project, and together, with SRRA, we look forward to creating a roadmap that propels Spearhead Trails toward a future of even greater impact and sustainability,” said Executive Director of Friends of Southwest Virginia Kim Davis. “This project signifies the importance of Spearhead Trails in our region, and we are dedicated to working with Virginia Tech and Spearhead Trails to formulate a comprehensive business and strategic plan that not only enhances the organization’s economic impact but also fosters sustained growth.”

“On behalf of the entire SRRA Executive Board of Directors, we look forward to this most important project impacting the future of so many within the region,” said Executive Director of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority Darrell Ely.

The center will work with Jeff Marion, a professor in the Virginia Tech School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, to gain insights on best practices for sustainability and conservation efforts. They will also rely on the experience and expertise of local nature groups such as The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Virginia Conservation Network, the U.S. Forest Service, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Environmental Quality. 

Part of the project includes a site familiarization tour in March where the project team and stakeholders will conduct interviews and explore the trails for themselves. The team is also seeking feedback from trail users, residents, and businesses, who can visit this site to share their views:

“Southwest Virginia is in a great position to use its natural amenities to grow local economies and attract visitors from around the world,” said senior economic development specialist Elli Travis, who is leading the project. “Through the strategic planning process, Spearhead Trails can build on what differentiates it from surrounding parks while ensuring it is sustainable so future generations can enjoy the trails as well.”

Other similar projects the center recently has led include: