HubCAP IV Spotlight: Marlinton and White Sulphur Springs focus on mountain biking

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.

The pandemic brought new attention to mountain biking bringing with it a surge in popularity across the country. According to NDP Group, a marketing firm, bike sales soared in April 2020 bringing in about $1 billion in retail sales in that month.

That popularity continues to grow in West Virginia as new mountain biking teams form and new trails are created to cater to the rapidly growing industry. White Sulphur Springs and Marlinton are two HubCAP IV communities that focused on mountain biking’s popularity and used their technical assistance (TA) funds available for use through HubCAP to bring more mountain biking opportunities to residents and visitors.

White Sulphur Springs

Acting on Recreational Data with a goal to become West Virginia’s healthiest community, the volunteer-led team in White Sulphur Springs is focusing on creating something for the kids to enjoy and be active.

Clay Elkins, a volunteer working on the community team, is excited about the potential to turn the community into a healthy destination for visitors. The town is situated close to state and federal land that Elkins sees as an endless opportunity to encourage biking tourism in the town.

There is excitement from the community about the work happening to reinvigorate White Sulphur Springs. Community members are excited for the potential of both increased recreational tourism and becoming a healthy community.

“We are exporting our most valuable resource and they are leaving in droves,” Elkins said about young people leaving West Virginia. “Despite that, we are trying to give people a reason to stay. Give them some fun to see. Give kids a way to ride a bicycle.”

White Sulphur Springs is leveraging their HubCAP technical assistance and the input from The Hub to focus on making their town a destination. As a member of the MonForest Towns, White Sulphur Springs is taking the input of technical assistance partners to make their mountain biking and health dreams for the town a reality.

Marlinton

The community team of volunteers in Marlinton, located in Pocahontas County within the Mon Forest region, understood their ability to capitalize on the growing interest in mountain biking. Located a short drive from Snowshoe, Marlinton is leaning into the work to develop a more robust network of mountain biking trails.

This year, Snowshoe Highlands became a Silver Level International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Ride Center. Snowshoe Highlands is one of only two mountain biking courses designated Silver on the U.S. East Coast. IMBA Ride Centers are recognized as large-scale mountain bike facilities with extensive trail networks, masterfully designed for mountain bikers of every skill level. This designation propelled all of Pocahontas County when thinking about being a mountain biking destination not just for the region but on a global scale.

Through part of the HubCAP technical assistance funding, Marlinton worked with Downstream Strategies to create a Bike Tourism Action Plan for the community.

“I’m thankful for HubCAP for bringing me out of the tourism and marketing work that I do into a different side of the work focusing on outdoor recreation economy through things like fostering business and community development,” Chelsea Faulknier said. “I’ve heard a lot of folks say in the past that there is so much planning and not enough action. HubCAP has been great for Marlinton to give us this push to take our action plan and really push the ideas and make things happen.”

The community-led team in Marlinton teamed up with Downstream Strategies to create a robust bike tourism plan to bring more people to the Snowshoe Highlands trails by way of Marlinton. The team has created a sustainable plan to grow their impact on the community over the next year, two years, five years, and even 20 years.

Congratulations to Marlinton and Snowshoe Highlands on receiving an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant of $1,500,000 for trail development! The goal of the Snowshoe Highlands trail development is to make it one of seven designated Gold networks of mountain biking trails in the world.

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

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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.