Skip to main content

Mon Forest Towns

Developing Mon Forest Towns

The recreation economy has been recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture as an emerging or priority area of national need. Outdoor recreation is a growing and diverse economic super sector that is a vital cornerstone of successful communities that cannot be ignored; however, many rural communities lack the capacity and resources needed to successfully support and capitalize on the recreation economy. 

In response to these trends, USDA’s Forest Service (FS), Rural Development (RD), and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) developed a Recreation Economy Resource Guide to empower RD field staff and FS district rangers to identify funding and technical assistance resources and best practices available to support small business development in the communities they serve, enhance the local recreation economy, and improve the quality of life for locals and the positive experiences of visiting recreation enthusiasts. The guide encourages both RD field staff and FS District Rangers’ to collaborate with the Cooperative Extension System within the Land Grant University System, which has broad educational, research and technical assistance resources that can help with planning associated with the recreational economy.  

In 2017 the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) in partnership with West Virginia University, USDA Rural Development and local partners began the process of bringing diverse stakeholders together to create a shared recreation vision for each county and the greater region surrounding the MNF. Creating this dialogue with business owners and community leaders is important in understanding how we can move forward together to make full use of forest and community assets to attract and create a vibrant community experience for local residents and visitors.

Following the principles of ecotourism and the Eastern Region Sustainable Recreation Strategy, the MNF seeks to cultivate relations across lands and forest gateway communities that will enhance the economy and quality of life for residents and visitors while sustaining the quality of the environment and society

On May 2, 2017 a small gathering of community leaders, business owners and nonprofit partner organization representatives met to begin this discussion in the town of Davis. The group began developing a recreation vision to help guide the project.  Subsequent partnership meetings took place in Thomas, Parsons, Franklin, Petersburg, Cowen, Richwood, Marlinton, Elkins, and White Sulphur Springs.

Our vision is to help community stakeholders invest in a shared recreation resource to generate positive and tangible outcomes for the social, ecological, and economic health and vitality of this region. We will pursue this vision together with our partners through three key objectives:

1. Provide a gateway for escape, exploration and adventure in diverse landscapes.

2. Build sustainable recreation opportunities through community engagement. 

3. Foster a recreation economy with direct and indirect benefits for the local community. 

The MNF and its partners are committed to developing recreation economies by working collaboratively to:

  • Engage communities and establish partnerships to better leverage our collective resources to enhance the recreation economy in Mon Forest Towns
  • Develop a robust inventory of recreation economy resources, services and amenities in the MNF and its gateway communities
  • Assess the recreation economy opportunities, needs and priorities of MNF gateway communities
  • Measure recreation economy indicators of success
  • Develop a common identity for MNF gateway communities
  • Develop additional recreation opportunities, services and amenities to support the recreation economy
  • Promote opportunities for recreation and cultural experiences in the MNF and its gateway communities

Contact Doug Arbogast if you would like more information on where we are in the recreation economies development process in West Virginia.