October 25, 2022
The Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative (AGCI) – offered by The Conservation Fund in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – are pleased to announce the 2022 Training Program for Appalachian Gateway Communities. Select community-based teams from gateway communities located in the Appalachian Region will participate in a 3-day in-person workshop (October 25-27, 2022, Lake Junaluska NC) as well as pre- and post-workshop webinars, with coaching throughout!

Program Information:

Through the program, teams will be provided the skills and knowledge to:
  • Preserve and steward community character;
  • Leverage natural & cultural assets;
  • Revitalize downtowns;
  • Promote arts and culture opportunities;
  • Build cultural heritage & natural resource tourism; and
  • Create lasting economic opportunity.

The training program will focus on the specific trends and opportunities in Appalachian gateway communities related to sustainable drivers for economic development, cultural heritage and natural resource tourism, as well the inclusion of the arts in strengthening communities. New this year, one or more specialized coaches will be made available to each team before, during, and after the workshop!

In addition to hearing from both national and regional experts, a main feature of the training program is the action-planning element which enables community teams to address specific issues or opportunities in their own community. By the end of the program, each team will develop a specific action plan for implementing a collaborative project.

The program registration fee is $550 per team. Limited team registration and travel assistance is available. After completing the training program, teams will also be eligible to apply for seed grant funding to help implement the action plan!


Team applicants must be located within the Appalachian Region as defined by ARC – to confirm, see https://www.arc.gov/appalachian-counties-served-by-arc/. Teams must also represent a gateway community defined as a community that borders or is near publicly owned lands such as national and state parks and forests. Priority will be given to teams representing at least one county classified as ‘distressed’ or ‘at-risk’ by ARC – to confirm, see https://www.arc.gov/classifying-economic-distress-in-appalachian-counties/.

Team Make-up:

Participants will attend as a team of 4-7 community members comprised of public land managers, elected officials, local business representatives/tourism councils, civic leaders, arts representatives, and others in public service roles. The team make-up should reflect a cross-section of the community, and while having an elected official involved is recommended, there are instances in which an acknowledged (but not elected) community leader (e.g., a community member active in many organizations and/or influential with key leaders) may be appropriate. Each team must have at least one community leader, one public land manager, and one community arts representative. Note: All team members are expected to attend the entire workshop and pre-/post-workshop webinars.

Next Steps:

1)  LEARN MORE – Attend an Informational Webinar on Thursday, July 14, 2022 from 10:00-11:00 am Eastern Time
Attendance by at least one team member is strongly encouraged at this webinar, where program highlights will be provided, application information will be discussed, and questions from attendees will be addressed. Attendence is recommended, but not required.


2)  EXPRESS INTEREST – Submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by Monday, July 25, 2022
This is an opportunity for interested teams to provide contact information for the team including: community location, neighboring public land, potential team participants, brief description of issues, topics of interest, and any previous interaction with AGCI. Teams that submit the letter of interest form will get preference in the final selection process.


3)  FORM A TEAM & APPLY – Submit your Team Application no later than 5:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday, August 22, 2022
The program registration fee is $550 per team. Assistance with forming a team and filling out the application is available! For assistance and/or questions at any step in the process, please contact Susan Elks (610-563-1516 | selks@conservationfund.org).


Important Dates:

  • Thursday, July 14th:                  Informational webinar *recommended, not required
  • Monday, July 25th:                     Deadline to submit letter of interest *recommended, not required
  • Monday, August 22nd:             Deadline to submit team application
  • Friday, September 2nd:            Notification of team acceptance
  • Monday, October 3rd:              Deadline for team registration fee ($550) and team member confirmation
  • October (dates TBD):                Pre-workshop webinars (2) & coaching
  • Tuesday, October 25th:           Day 1 of in-person workshop
  • Nov/Dec (dates TBD):               Post-workshop webinars (2) & coaching


For additional information about the 2022 Regional Training Program for Appalachian Gateway Communities, please contact Susan Elks (610-563-1516 | selks@conservationfund.org).