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The gateway communities of the New River Gorge region each have something unique to celebrate, and one or more things to approve upon, as we seek to support dynamic and diverse economies that provide positive experiences for our citizens and visitors.

In this context, the gateway communities are the cities and towns adjacent to public land throughout Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties.

Joining the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority team allows us the opportunity to work with public land managers, including the National Park Service, leaders in business and government, academic institutions and citizens groups. With our partners, we work to make the most of our natural environment and existing infrastructure and move toward a shared vision for our region’s future.

The redesignation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in late 2020 has attracted new visitors from all over the United States, and internationally, to enjoy the outdoor wonders and diverse recreational opportunities of the region. Creating rich interpretive, cultural, business and recreational experiences for people of all ages will entice new visitors, increase return visits, support the retention of existing citizens and provide an attractive quality of life for everyone spending time here.

A critical component to ensuring gateway community success is to focus on intentional redevelopment and focused strategy implementation throughout the region.

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We want to provide a transparent view of the approaches the development authority and its partners are taking to strengthen local communities. These initiatives are intended to enhance experiences within our communities that will encourage people to tell others about all the New River Gorge region has to offer.

As an overview, the development authority’s gateway community initiatives include:

  • Identifying priority infrastructure projects (broadband, water/sewer, streets, etc.).
  • Identifying priority downtown and brownfield redevelopment projects.
  • Climate action and resilience planning.
  • Prioritizing natural/outdoor assets.
  • Implementing first-impression programs to identify experience gaps.
  • Beautification, public arts, historic preservation and interpretation and bike/walk improvements.
  • Evaluating and supporting local food systems.
  • Evaluating and supporting workforce pipelines.
  • Evaluating and supporting tourism and service industry hospitality training.

This intersectional approach will balance the natural assets and cultural heritage in the New River Gorge region with the necessary improvements to infrastructure and the built environment of each community.

The region’s rivers, roads, bridges, lakes and trails connect our gateway communities, but it’s the minds of our people who can and will enhance the experiences of all who enjoy the New River Gorge region. We need your ideas, collaboration, cooperation, patience and goodwill as this complex process unfolds. We look forward to sharing updates.

Jenna Grayson is manager of strategic partnerships and Andy Davis is manager of gateway community initiatives at the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Jenna and Andy each chose to move to the New River Gorge region after initially visiting for its whitewater rafting and outdoor recreation opportunities.

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