HubCAP IV Spotlight: Franklin and Cowen focus on new outdoor recreational opportunities

The fourth iteration of the Hub Communities of Achievement Program (HubCAP IV) has concluded and our communities really showed up for the work. Cowen, Marlinton, Elkins, Petersburg, White Sulphur Springs, and Franklin took advantage of all the technical assistance offered and got moving on incredible studies and projects. Each community identified and worked on projects aimed at outdoor recreational tourism and attracting new opportunities for their towns. We spoke with some of the community team members as they wrapped up HubCAP IV and talked about what they’ve been working on over the course of the program.

Outdoor recreational tourism is something that communities across West Virginia have been focusing on as a growing industry in the state. West Virginia is poised to continue growing tourism as the natural wonders of the Mountain State continue to be developed and preserved to attract adventure seekers and give residents a chance to explore their home in a new way.

In this short series, we will highlight these Hub Communities in pairs to show the work happening across our communities and the state to grow West Virginia’s outdoor recreational economies.

Franklin and Cowen leaned into the HubCAP IV technical assistance (TA) grant funding to study ways to create an outdoor experience for citizens and visitors. In Franklin, the community-led team of volunteers decided to set themselves apart in the region by developing a unique outdoor experience: the team conducted a rock climbing feasibility study. Cowen looked to revitalize a historic and wonderful piece of land for outdoor gatherings with the development of the B&O Pond.

Franklin

Franklin realized during the HubCAP IV program that they wanted to create something new and different to their town and county to attract outdoor recreation enthusiasts. After a discussion among community members, Franklin and Pendleton County realized that a study in rock climbing could help differentiate the community’s recreational draw from other communities in West Virginia.

“After a conversation with Franklin’s coach, Amanda Workman Scott, we decided that a study would be the perfect use of our (technical assistance) funding,” said Laura Brown, the Executive Director of the Pendleton County Economic Development Authority. “We are not only gathering current existing rock formations that are open for public use, but also gathering the data for private rock formations for future use. The study will give us a map to use internally as well as provide the state tourism office with information regarding tourism assets.”

Focusing on the rock study and rock climbing will set Franklin and Pendleton County apart as they navigate a way to join the growing movement of outdoor recreational economies. The study, conducted with the help of Downstream Strategies, will give the team a map of all the feasible rock faces that can be utilized to make the rock-climbing future of Pendleton County a reality.

The exciting possibility of a rock climbing tourist attraction has helped the town and county with their rebranding efforts. The county’s new slogan “Pendleton Rocks, Worth the Climb,” which came from a branding initiative with New South Media as part of the HubCAP IV technical assistance funds, shows the enthusiasm from community members to lean into this new phase of recreation in the county.

Studying natural assets is proving to be an increasingly beneficial development for Franklin and Pendleton County. Citizens have joined in to get involved and make this plan a reality. As the study continues, Pendleton County will lean into making it a destination for rock climbing, caving, slacklining, rappelling, and all the recreational outdoor activities that come along with focusing on the rock formations.

Cowen

Cowen looked close to home for the recreational development project identified as part of their HubCAP IV technical assistance. Focusing on the B&O Pond, the community wants to create an outdoor gathering place just north of downtown, so the community can truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area and a small bit of history that is important to the area.

For years, the pond served as a place to provide water to service steam engines, and the site was a major repair hub for engines. During World War I and World War II, the site was the place that soldiers from West Virginia loaded onto trains to depart for and return from the wars.

Now, the area is being repurposed to create a place for the community. It has been a long-term goal of the Cowen community team to make the B&O Pond a place for families and Cowen citizens to enjoy.

With the help of HubCAP IV training and technical assistance funds, Cowen has started to work to transform the B&O Pond into a place to be active and spend time outdoors. Picnic tables have been placed around the pond, and the community is encouraged to enjoy the peace of nature by fishing and canoeing throughout the pond. As Jerry Dornburg, the Mayor of Cowen, says, “It is just the beginning of the plan created, thanks to studies from the WV Brownfields Assistance Center (a HubCAP IV partner).”

“The town is going to purchase a couple of floating docks to install for the local fisherman to launch and recover their kayaks and also for people to fish from,” Mayor Dornburg explains. “A walking trail will be developed once the area is cleared and the best route is determined. The town will also add a couple more tables and grills to the area. The team has worked with the WVU Brownfields Assistance Center to have a phase 1 environmental study completed.”

We are so excited to see our communities work so hard to transform their towns and economies…way to go!

The Hub’s Communities of Achievement Program (HubCAP) offers participating communities a time-tested curriculum to accelerate their community-led economic development efforts. We support community teams over a multi-year period to move forward a clearly defined community development project from initial idea to long-term implementation and financing. These projects are the spark for community revitalization including through activities such as building redevelopment, increasing business opportunities, and improving community engagement practices.

To learn more about HubCAP, reach out to Stacy Thomas at s.thomas@wvhub.org

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

More to explore

redefined is a storytelling project on a mission.

Watch real stories of West Virginians who are bringing hope to their communities.

For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.