Community discussion focuses on ecotourism in Southwest Virginia


Tyler Hughes, Appalachian Voices
276-679-1691 or

The New Economy Network of Southwest Virginia and Appalachian Voices hosted a community discussion on ecotourism in Pennington Gap today. The meeting was free and open to the public.

The community discussion featured a panel of local residents who have been directly involved with ecotourism in Southwest Virginia. They covered a variety of topics including the economic and environmental impact of this growing sector which leverages a region’s natural assets — mountains, rivers and lakes, farmlands, wildlife habitat — for local economic benefit while protecting those natural resources.

The speakers included:

  • Neil and Beth Walker of Stone Mountain Adventuress, an outdoor recreation outfitting business in Norton
  • Michelle Davalos, Clinch District Ranger of the U.S. Forest Service
  • Wally Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology at UVA-Wise and ecotourism proponent.
  • Travis Anderson, Appalachia Town Councilman

The New Economy Network is a regional citizens’ group that focuses on sustainable economic development and transition in Southwest Virginia. Appalachian Voices is a nonprofit organization with an office in Norton that works on community and economic development and environmental protection in the region.

This is the first of several community discussions the groups plan to host in coming months on a variety of topics related to sustainable economic and community development across Southwest Virginia. The information gathered at these sessions will be used to further residents’ engagement as the region continues to shift to a more diversified economy.