Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Rockbridge Area has a large number of recreational draws, including 100,000 acres of public forests and parks for camping, hiking, biking, fishing and hunting. The region is also filled with historic sites and cultural experiences showcasing crafts, music, art and food. Over $21 billion is spent in Virginia on outdoor recreation every year, but many travelers have traditionally been unfamiliar with Rockbridge and its tourism-related amenities.

Our Role

A team of leaders from Rockbridge attended CLN’s Balancing Nature and Commerce workshop. The workshop’s aim is to help all participants take inventory of their natural assets and build a vision for outdoor recreation and economic development around them. With the excitement and new knowledge spurred by the workshop, Rockbridge participants first established the Rockbridge Area Outdoor Partnership (RAOP), a collection of local governments, business partners and public land managers from Rockbridge County, the Cities of Lexington and Buena Vista, and the Towns of Glasgow and Goshen to consolidate and incorporate past trail and blueways planning efforts and supports economic, stewardship, and community health and wellness goals across all jurisdiction. Next, with resources and inspiration gained from the Balancing Nature and Commerce workshop, the RAOP set on to create a master strategic plan. By leveraging the newly found capacity from the workshop and a technical assistance award from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), the 2017 Rockbridge Area Outdoor Recreation and Trail Plan came to be, an action plan detailing a vision and strategy to generate jobs and small business opportunities based around an outdoor recreation economy.

“Taking six folks with diverse backgrounds and community goals to a workshop hundreds of miles away seemed like risky business. We were, however, inspired by workshop presenters as well as the other attending communities and from that adventure have been able to create partnerships and collaborations that are producing tangible results and excitement in our region. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.” – Jean Clark, Director of Tourism Lexington & the Rockbridge Area Tourism


Why This Project Matters

The Trail Plan developed expands upon a 15-year vision to braid together a network of trails, water trails and greenways into an interconnected system over the next 10-20 years. It recommends future trails be selected based on connectivity, feasibility, access to natural and historic assets, accessibility, community support and funding. The Trail Plan also calls for improved signage, maps and support infrastructure and notes the need for increased partnerships, communication, branding and marketing and outreach.

Today, Rockbridge continues to fulfill the projects and priorities from the Trail Plan. Full development of the Trail Plan offers great potential for increased economic returns throughout the Rockbridge Area, and will positively impact community health by curbing inactivity in Rockbridge County, where over 32% of residents report high blood pressure.