How could the future of the communities of the upper Kanawha Valley be linked to the growth of tourism in Fayette County stimulated by the new national park? This was the subject of a public meeting held on August 10 in Smithers.
Economic development specialist Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC, hosted a presentation and two-hour conversation with approximately 60 representatives from local governments and agencies, businesses, artists and others. interested residents of the Smithers Gateway Center.
Attendees included Delegate Austin Haynes (R-Fayette), John Brenemen, Chairman of the Fayette County Commission; Dr D. Anne Cavalier, Mayor of Smithers; James Hudnall, Mayor of Cedar Grove; Andy Davis, director of Gateway Community Initiatives, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority; and Jason A. Young, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Community Development Hub.
The event was supported by a grant from the HUB’s Cultivate WV program.
When applying for this grant earlier this year, Cavalier described the purpose of the meeting as follows: tourists and other travelers en route to other destinations and induce a certain percentage of them to stop to consume goods and services.
“Gateway communities are locations along the way to nearby tourist destinations and have the challenge of harnessing both the arts and tourism within this framework to stimulate local economic revitalization,” said Beach Vickers, director of the event for McMahon’s appearance. “Now that America’s newest national park at New River Gorge, only about half an hour away, has been designated, we believe it’s time to re-energize our efforts to become a true gateway, or portal, to visitors en route to and from there. “
In 2015, representatives from Montgomery and Smithers were selected by the Appalachian Regional Commission to attend a regional workshop on Gateway Communities sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts at Berea College in Berea, Ky. . McMahon was one of the trainers as a nationally renowned Gateway expert. At this workshop, Montgomery and Smithers were designated by the CRA as an official gateway community.
The team representing Montgomery and Smithers during training at Berea and still part of the Gateway initiative includes Les Thomas, Gretta Hairston, Mike King and Beach Vickers, all of Montgomery; Paulette Mabry, formerly of Montgomery (now Huntington); Anne Cavalier of Smithers; and Alice Hypes, currently of Charleston and former director of the Midland Trail Association. Tory Casey from Charleston has also joined the Gateway Community team.
For more information on the Gateway community, follow the towns of Montgomery and Smithers and Montgomery, WV, Area Gateway on Facebook.