On September 17, 2021, the West Virginia Community Development Hub (The Hub) announced the launch of a brand new revitalization program.
There Downtown Appalachia: Revitalizing Recreation Economies (DARRE) is a three-year initiative to build local economies in West Virginia.
The Hub is partnering with the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University (WVU) and Partner Community Capital (formerly the Natural Capital Investment Fund) to support efforts to bring revitalizing momentum to the Monongahela National Forest region.
Eight communities who have received professional community coaching services from the team at The Hub in the past will participate in this initiative to level up efforts. Those communities include Cowen, Elkins, Franklin, Marlinton, Parsons, Petersburg, Richwood, and White Sulphur Springs.
With the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission and matching funds from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the One Foundation, DARRE will support these communities in developing a strategy for economy building focused on downtown building redevelopment, entrepreneurial training & small business assistance, and community revitalization.
DARRE will build upon community partnerships developed as part of The Hub’s community coaching programs in the eight participating communities, including working with existing teams to help accelerate positive impacts.
The eight participating communities will have access to over $1M in technical assistance funding to:
- Revitalize underutilized downtown properties & attract developer investment;
- Build engaged entrepreneurial communities that proactively develop and support small businesses; and
- Community development services that ensure long-term local engagement and visible improvements to each individual community.
While the tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, state and national parks have been an exception to the rule, including in West Virginia where we saw a 9% increase of visitors to these locations in 2020.
The eight communities participating in DARRE are located in the Monongahela National Forest region and are ideally placed near parks and recreational areas to take advantage of the state’s investment in tourism and remote worker attraction.
Other partners supporting this program include Woodlands Development Group and the Mon Forest Towns Initiative.
Photo of Elkins, West Virginia tourist train station is by Storm Cunningham.