PRESS RELEASE: Southwest Virginia Outdoors’ High Knob Region to Release Master Plan

February 21, 2020

Contact: Jenna Wagner
PR & Marketing Director
Friends of Southwest Virginia
Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation
(276) 492-2400



ABINGDON, VA – Friends of Southwest Virginia and the High Knob Enhancement Corporation are set to release a master outdoor recreation & tourism development plan for the High Knob region on March 31st at 5:30 PM. The plan release and a celebration of the High Knob Region will take place at the Norton Farmers Market at 8th St SW, Norton, VA 24273 and is free and open to the public.

High Knob is one of the eight Southwest Virginia Outdoors initiatives of Friends of Southwest Virginia and includes the localities around this key regional natural asset: the City of Norton, the counties of Lee, Scott and Wise, and the Towns of Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Clinchport, Coeburn, Duffield, Dungannon, Pennington Gap, St. Paul, and Wise. 

The High Knob Regional Master Plan identifies individual strategies for each community to offer its own distinct character and assets providing a unique experience to visitors, while also working as a unified region to advance the regional economy. 

The goal of developing a master plan for the High Knob Recreation area is to link assets to local communities to drive economic development through tourism and recreational opportunities while increasing quality of life. 

Friends of Southwest Virginia’s SWVA Outdoors initiative started in 2012 with the goal of developing the outdoor recreation industry cluster in Southwest Virginia (SWVA) in order to reap the economic benefits of the many natural assets in our region. The first phase of this initiative supported the development of stakeholder groups in eight anchor recreation areas throughout SWVA: the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Plateau, Breaks, Clinch River, Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, High Knob, Mount Rogers, and New River

Next, a master plan of the regional economy and assets is necessary to make sure that potential projects are prioritized, assessed for feasibility, and then successful once undertaken. The overall master plan for High Knob will serve as an important tool for redefining the economy in this region.

Together, the communities of the High Knob Region and their surrounding natural areas will become the destination for an unrivaled outdoor experience: the “High Knob Experience.”

“High Knob has become an important asset and economic driver for the City of Norton and the region,” said Fred Ramey, city manager of Norton. “This plan  builds on our recent efforts and provides a blueprint for a regional economic development system for future cultural and natural asset development.”

The High Knob Enhancement Corporation, established in 2008 to rebuild the observation tower destroyed by vandals, will champion the plan into the future, provide a singular organization to coordinate High Knob regional efforts and ensure cooperation among localities in long-range implementation. 

“Tourism is important to the High Knob region, in order to move tourism forward the plan that has been established will be a great tool, the High Knob Enhancement Corporation is looking forward to moving the ideas forward that are proposed in the document, this is an exciting time for the region. This has the potential to be a part of the economy, through the work and engagement of the region this has the potential to be a bright star for the region moving forward,” said Robbie Robbins, Chair of the High Knob Enhancement Corporation.

The master plan proposes several capital improvement projects that will enhance identified gateway community themes. These signature projects will serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs and should be catalysts for economic development; encouraging private sector investment and providing leverage for future grant funding by attracting visitors to the region. Key focuses and themes of this plan include adventure towns, dark sky, cultural center, Guest River Gorge, college towns, river experience/horse towns, ATV towns, coal heritage, and Natural Tunnel/Daniel Boone.

Funding partners include the Appalachian Regional Commission’s 2016 POWER Program, Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development’s Building Collaborative Communities Program, Friends of Southwest Virginia, and local communities.


For more information, please contact Jenna Wagner with Friends of Southwest Virginia (276-492-2400). For more information and to stay up-to-date, subscribe to the Friends of Southwest Virginia Partner Newsletter and “Like” Friends of Southwest Virginia on Facebook.

About Southwest Virginia:
Tucked in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a vibrant culture of music, craft and stunning natural beauty. It’s a region of spectacular views and rich natural resources. Time spent in the region adds up to something much more than a simple getaway. A different side of Virginia. And a great place to visit for a week’s vacation – or to make a home for a lifetime. Authentic. Distinctive. Alive.

About the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia:
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation is the coordinating body for cultural heritage tourism and economic development efforts fostering Southwest Virginia’s creative economy. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the combined entities help localities, businesses, individuals, artists, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.

A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort.

Key initiatives include:

  • Branding and marketing Southwest Virginia to the world as a distinct culture and destination
  • Developing and sustaining the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
  • Expanding outdoor recreation development initiatives and marketing throughout the region
  • Planning and implementation of downtown revitalization throughout the region to instill a high quality of life within our communities and promote them to the world for a broad spectrum of economic development opportunities

Learn More About the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia

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