Thursday, October 11, 2018

Adventure tourism and artsy charm revive W.Va. towns

The New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. (New York Times photo by Tony Cenicola)
The rural mountains of eastern West Virginia are one of the largest undeveloped tracts in the eastern United States, Zach Montague notes for The New York Times as he reports on adventure tourism in the area: "While persistent poverty still weighs down many corners of the region, travelers coming to experience its natural gems have, in recent years, fueled a modest resurgence in the towns that lie near them. Joining an old guard of native residents, an influx of outsiders has helped resuscitate communities that were all but burned out after the near-collapse of the coal and logging industries in the earlier part of the 20th century."

Davis, in Tucker County (Wikipedia)
One example is Davis, a community of 660 on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest. The town's "upbeat cafes" and "quirky boutiques" lend the town an energetic vibe, Montague reports. The town's major draw for tourists is that it's a convenient way to access trails for mountain bikers, cross country skiers and hikers. Savvy locals run outdoors stores and festivals to cater to these tourists.

Three miles away, the town of Thomas, pop. 600, also attracts tourists.  Thomas is a bit artsier, boasting art galleries, coffee houses, breweries, and folk music festivals. And a bit larger at 3,000 people, nearby Fayetteville capitalizes on its proximity to the New River Gorge to bring in white-water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts.

Though the towns seem remote, they're only a few hours away from some of the most populous parts of the U.S. "For outdoor enthusiasts in this radius looking for a weekend trip, the hilly terrain around the towns is some of the best in the area," Montague writes.

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