HubCAP IV Spotlight: Elkins and Petersburg rebrand their town and focus on riverfront development

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.

Petersburg and Elkins decided to develop their towns to make them more attractive to visitors in-person and through marketing. Both communities spent their technical assistance resources to create plans for riverfront development as well as creating dynamic and updated branding to catch potential visitors’ eyes.

Petersburg

Petersburg is a community at the northernmost portion of the Mon Forest. This community of “do-ers” took advantage of the HubCAP IV program to focus on two large projects, riverfront development and branding. Additionally, the Petersburg team was able to get an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America added to their team to volunteer time on numerous other projects, including a downtown beautification weekend.

The HubCAP team worked with local engineers and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop plans to pave a hike and bike trail that runs along the Petersburg dike. The proposed trail will run approximately three miles along the Petersburg dike and will include multiple entrances for walkers and bikers. The trail along the Petersburg dike was first conceived as a health and wellness improvement for the community with hopes it could also have a positive impact on tourism. The group secured a $25,000 grant from Senator Hamilton, which was matched locally by the City of Petersburg, the County Commission, and the Board of Education, each adding an equal share to bring the total to $50,000.

“This to me has so many win-wins for our community,” Bob McCaule says. “The trail will connect neighborhoods and allow safe walking or biking from one end of town to the other.”

The group continues to seek funding resources for the completion of the trail.  

The team further utilized this opportunity to develop new branding to tie into the Mon Forest Towns initiative with increased branding. Carla Kaposy, the Grant County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director, led these efforts while working closely with New South Media. The result is new promotional materials and a new website highlighting what the area has to offer.

“The new branding will help us grow tourism in Petersburg and Grant County, introducing new people to our community,” Kaposy says. 

Petersburg and Franklin are also working in collaboration to develop branding for the Smoke Hole Canyon.

Elkins

The Elkins team focused on continuing momentum from several initiatives over the last few years and building on projects to help their downtown continue to be a recreational asset. Elkins is the most centrally located and largest community in the Mon Forest. Yet, the team recognized that finding one’s way around their community can be difficult. That’s why the HubCAP team of Elkins focused on riverfront development and better branding for their community.

Ideas and efforts surrounding riverfront redevelopment have been ebbing and flowing in Elkins since 2016. Several studies were completed and at least one previous master plan was produced, but follow-up action never took root. Now, thanks to the current effort focused on the Tygart Hotel restoration, Elkins’s HubCAP team knew it was time to make that dream a reality. The Riverfront Task Force successfully launched an online platform to solicit comments and hosted a public input event with the assistance of the design firm.

“One of our biggest hurdles is overcoming negative perceptions about the cleanliness of the river and how focusing resources on this project will ultimately benefit the community,” Elkins City Recorder Jessica Sutton says. “Community leaders recognize the potential and desirability of reframing the river into a usable asset. Community members have been equally receptive and excited in the prospect. Our hope is to improve alternative transportation to better connect our community, to offer easily accessible recreation options that will improve the health and well-being of our residents, and to increase our presence as a recreation tourism destination. Each of these will improve our economic and community viability.”

The plan was introduced to the City of Elkins in September 2022.  

Elkins also focused on cohesive branding in conjunction with a city initiative to address wayfinding for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Working with a designer, Skyler Spence, who was involved in brand development with the Mon Forest Towns initiative, the group was able to pick several colors and icons that can be used by organizations and businesses throughout the community.

Elkins will continue their efforts to implement and fund their riverfront development, business development, branding, and wayfinding.

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.

If you have questions 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.