By Kimber Ray
In the remote coalfields of southwest Virginia, a collaborative grassroots project is taking on the challenge of balancing job creation and environmental conservation. The Clinch River Valley Initiative, conceived at an economic development forum in 2010, is an award-winning coalition of concerned citizens, local government, and environmental and business groups, ardently committed to building creative economies around the Clinch River.
What makes the initiative unique is the broad scope of the project, which draws together various interests in a logical embrace. Uniting behind a common love for the Clinch River Valley region and a shared vision of healthy communities, the initiative developed five interwoven goals: to create an official state park; develop access points, trails and campgrounds around the river; enhance the water quality; provide environmental education opportunities; and foster downtown revitalization and entrepreneurship. Each goal is represented by stakeholders who address that branch of the project through a team action group.
According to Carol Doss, co-chair for the water quality action group, they have already made valuable progress with recruiting volunteers, cleaning up illegal dump sites along the river and hosting household hazardous waste collection drives. Their efforts will be given greater permanence by the environmental awareness imparted by the education group, which is in the process of developing a program to present at local schools.
New businesses — such as restaurants and a river outfitter — have already started to emerge in the area as a result of the initiative, and quarterly community meetings to discuss the project regularly attract nearly 100 people. The Clinch River Valley Initiative stands as an achievement of group success, showing the creative power of collaboration.
To learn more, visit clinchriverva.com