Developing a sustained modern rural system

Ranging ... Virginia's Bland County Alternative for Visitors and Citizens

A Bland County Trails System Gateway

A Bland County Gateway to the Appalachian Trail and to a modern trails system is a positive, imaginative proposal. Timely, relatively risk-free steps need to be taken to achieve that structure and recognition.

The Gateway is a means for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (the ATC) to achieve its ever-broadening objectives of:

  1. Restoring, managing, and protecting the Trail's (the Appalachian Trail or AT) ability to produce human benefits, i.e., it as a world resource
  2. Maximizing opportunities for using and enjoying the Trail resources
  3. Providing financial incentives to people and communities in the Trail corridor
  4. Contributing to global environmental resources and to solutions for their preservation and management.

The Gateway is a special means for the Bland Community to achieve an important diversity of well-recognized upper-level objectives:

A trail system Gateway would reasonably have the often-related components of:

  1. A notable access to the AT and to an developing modern trail system
  2. Accommodations for entering and/or exiting the trail system
  3. Pick-up and transportation services, links to major transportation
  4. Guide and related services
  5. Information about the AT and related trails including Internet access
  6. A permanent structure, typically with one or more existing enterprises
  7. Sites for seminars, conferences, events, rendezvous
  8. Economic advantages to citizens and enterprises
  9. Special programs, policies, opportunities
  10. Links to other trails of more local and specialized interests

How do you get to trails from here?
Developing forms and functions of one or more Gateways in Bland County can move the County, the ATC, and a new trails system toward a mutually beneficial condition for employment, financial security, and preservation and management of natural resources of the region. The gateway concept is new; there are many related organizations; The US Forest Service is strongly related to the AT; AT work is consistent with a recently-approved Forest Plan.Virginia Tech and Roanoke AT -related clubs exist. With other activity such as suggested by The Rich Patch Hikers a new organization may be formed. Through the trails system and one or more gateways, it will be possible to help build relations so all benefit from the relationship; school children and teachers increase SOL scores; local business increase sales and activities/services; local employment increases; membership increases (an index of perceived advantages gained)

New developments are needed for parking, pickup and delivery, communication, first aid service. Advertising of likely support foods, equipment, services, guides, etc. is needed. Work is needed, both in planning and in contacting land owners to build and allow for-fee uses of connector trails and others. Hiker campgrounds and over-night rooming facilities (e.g., Dogwood Inns) can be developed. Information on the Internet is needed for connections to other recreational resources (e.g., river, lake) made part of a multi-day hiking experience in this patch of the AT and related trails of the local system.

The County Gateway can become a model for others in (1) fully achieving the activities suggested above, and (2) developing these as subsystems that can be exported cost- and time-effectively to other places and groups studying becoming an effective trails system Gateway.

The Gateway is a low cost, low intensity activity. It needs signs, advertising, a "presence." People in the county need to know about it and spread knowledge of its existence by their communications. Advertising, signs, brochures, and other media and needed. Funds are needed. Grants cannot sustain the action. The Gateway must be planned to be "sustainable" and it must, thereafter, be sustained. I do not know how to get started but I have a few ideas. I am eager to hear suggestions and will share them.

Unifying the The Rich Patch Hikers proposal , the Tread Trail Group proposal with the concepts in this gateway document and the Bland Initiative suggests a useful concept for Bland County to implement or voice approval, for ATC to study and provide direction and encouragement, or for other means for County citizens to achieve benefits from a modern trails system in Bland County. There are several gateways possible to this important resource in Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, the US Forest Service, and Bland County.

Robert H. Giles, Jr., Ph.D.,Professor Emeritus
formerly of the
College of Natural Resources,Virginia Tech
504 Rose Avenue
Blacksburg 24060
Revised August 20, 2006

Perhaps you will share ideas with
about some of the topic(s) above.

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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