article reposted from News5 WCYB — There is a regional plan to connect some of the most beautiful places in southwest Virginia together to allow visitors the chance to visit mountains, lakes, and hiking trails a bit easier.
The southwest Virginia leaders working to connect the popular tourism sites in the region are now seeing some significant funding to move outdoor recreation initiatives forward
“We want people coming in for the weekends, staying more than one night, and then visiting all of our counties. It’s great that southwest Virginia is working together now on all of this regional stuff. We’re not selfish anymore of our own properties. We want to connect. We want people to stay here,” Big Stone Gap town manager Stephen Lawson told News 5.
Leaders have spent years forming the High Knob Initiative Regional Master Plan, which Lawson told us eventually connects places like High Knob in Norton, Big Cherry Reservoir in Big Stone Gap, and the Devil’s Bathtub in Scott County.
“We all have to work regionally. One county can’t do it on its own. One town can’t do it on its own. It’s got to be a regional effort,” Delegate Terry Kilgore (R – Gate City) told us. Kilgore sits on the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which recently allotted $300,000 to begin developing Big Cherry with camp sites.
“Big Cherry is one of those places that we really haven’t highlighted in the past, and I think it’s going to have a great recreational opportunity, great tourism opportunity,” Kilgore said.
“There’s not a lot up here at this point in time, so one of the things we want to have is a General Store type of thing that the town runs, and it will have shower facilities for overnight camping, kayak rentals, bait, the normal things you would need on camping overnight stuff,” Lawson told us about the future plans for the site.
The earliest development, though, could come later this year from a Department of Conservation and Recreation grant to provide walking access between attractions.
“It will be about a mile over to the Straight Fork Ridge Trail that is a forestry trail that goes down to the Devil’s Bathtub. That connects us to a natural beauty in Scott County,” Lawson said.
Lawson told us they are still waiting on additional funding sources for the camp sites, but he anticipates construction to begin next fall.