For decades, local industry has relied on extracting Appalachia's rich natural resources such as coal, timber and gas. Although these industries have historically provided a local job base, poverty has been a pervasive challenge in many Appalachian communities. In recent years the Appalachian region's economy has become more diversified; yet, even with infusions of new types of industry, the region still does not reflect the economic status of the rest of the nation.  

Since 2007, The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network, with generous support from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has led the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative (AGCI) to expand tourism, the arts and other economic development opportunities for Appalachia's gateway communities. With programming that has included targeted technical assistance, community tourism assessments, tourism planning workshops, and small grants for project implementation, the AGCI focuses on communities that are entry points to some of Appalachia’s most important natural assets: national and state parks and forests. In addition to enhancing a community’s natural assets, the AGCI also emphasizes the role of the arts –particularly in revitalizing downtowns – in a comprehensive natural and cultural heritage tourism development strategy. 


Appalachian Gateway Community Workshops

Our three-day regional workshops provide community teams with the skills achieve sustainable economic development, cultural heritage and natural resource tourism, arts promotion, and preservation and stewardship of community character. Community teams have the opportunity to hear from national and regional experts, and develop specific action plans to take back to their communities.

Past workshops:

  • Regional Workshop May 9-11 in Ringgold, Georgia
Seven teams from Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia attended the regional workshop in Ringgold, GA. Working with national and regional experts on sustainable tourism, economic development, the arts, natural and cultural resources, transportation, and branding, each team crafted an action plan that focuses on the unique Appalachian assets that make their community an appealing place to live, work and recreate. 

Appalachian Gateway Webinar Series

A Webinar Series on Tools, Topics, and Issues Facing Gateway Communities in the Appalachian Region


Past webinars:


"Appalachia and the Arts" with Cheryl Hargrove of HTC Partners
 June 5, 2017


Learn More:

Appalachian Gateway Communities "Survival Toolkit"