By Eliza Laubach
The Virginia legislature passed funding for a Clinch River State Park and designated a new scenic drive loop for the area in an effort to celebrate the natural beauty of the state’s southwest region. By press time, Gov. McAuliffe had not signed these items into law.
The Clinch River State Park would consist of parcels of land across several counties, including river access sites. The land purchases — sold by willing landowners — would be bolstered by more than $3 million from the state budget. The Clinch River Valley Initiative, a collaborative effort of local, regional and state partners, worked to develop the park as a foundation for economic development and environmental conservation in the biodiverse watershed.
In the same region, the Thomas Jefferson Scenic Byway Loop is expected to bring ecotourism to Scott and Wise counties. The route encompasses existing roads that pass through the Jefferson National Forest, the city of Norton and the Guest River Gorge, among other natural and man-made landmarks. Wise County Administrator Shannon Scott told the Bristol Herald-Courier that the loop could bring in tourists, create jobs and provide local recreation opportunities.