Appalachia’s gateway communities—communities that border publicly owned lands such as national and state parks and forests—often struggle to balance the need for economic growth with the desire to protect their natural ecosystems, landscapes and cultural heritage.

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.  

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.


This 3-day workshop is designed for teams from gateway communities that have participated in the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative (AGCI) or are ready to implement new or ongoing community projects.  It is expected that each team will bring a specific community project or strategic plan related to sustainably capitalizing on natural and cultural heritage assets and/or the arts. The pilot offering of this training is scheduled for August 7-9, 2018 in Shepherdstown, WV.

Regional 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.


In May of 2017, seven teams from Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia attended a regional workshop in Ringgold, GA. There they each crafted an action plan that focused on the unique Appalachian assets that make their community an appealing place to live, work and recreate. 

Webinar Series

A Webinar series on tools, topics, and issues facing gateway communities in the Appalachian Region is also being offering through the AGCI. Materials from past webinars are posted below. Information on upcoming webinars is coming soon!

"Narrative-based Planning" with Ted Eubanks, Fermata, Inc. (March 15, 2017)
"Appalachia and the Arts"
with Cheryl Hargrove of HTC Partners (June 5, 2017)

Learn More:

Appalachian Gateway Communities "Survival Toolkit"