Q. What is the most famous hiking trail in America? A. The Appalachian Trail, and nearly a quarter of its 2100 miles are in Virginia including long, scenic stretches that run right through the Roanoke Valley.
Q. What is the most visited unit of the National Park Service? A. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which passes through Botetourt and Roanoke counties, with over 17,000,000 visits.
Q. What is the largest municipal park in America? A. Alright, that was a trick question. I honestly don't know the answer, but I know that Carvins Cove Nature Reserve run by the City of Roanoke is the second largest. With 12,700 spectacular acres encompassing an 800 acre reservoir, it is a haven for mountain biking, horseback riding and fishing.
Why the pop quiz? Because these are just a few interesting facts about the outdoor recreation opportunities that shape every day life in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia where I live. As a transplant to the area, I am keenly aware of the many blessings we enjoy. I'm thankful to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I enjoy telling people about the place I call home.
Yesterday I was among several people whose job it is to tell others about the region. I attended the Roanoke Regional Adventure Tourism Workshop sponsored in part by Franklin County and Botetourt County Tourism, the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce, The Roanoke Regional Partnership, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and others. One person who speaks with authority and enthusiasm on the subject is Pete Eshelman of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. His goal is to build Roanoke’s reputation as an outdoor lover’s paradise on par with great communities like Boulder, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Flagstaff, Arizona and others. Having been to two of those three places, I can tell you that the Roanoke Valley can go toe-to-toe with any of them for the sheer volume of outdoor recreation opportunities.
Eshelman is pursuing his goal not only with aggressive marketing, but also by examining the region’s strengths and identifying and fixing its weaknesses. He’s not only touting our valley's story, he’s shaping it. He works to recruit businesses to the Roanoke Valley and has been instrumental in bringing several big time events to the community including the Radical Reels Film Festival and the Blue Ridge Marathon. He’s moving towards his goal like a mountain bike careening down Mill Mountain. That’s because Pete is a doer not a talker. In Roanoke, as I’m sure it is in most other places, we need more doers.
* Note. In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that the Roanoke Regional Partnership is not now, nor have they ever been, a client of our firm. I have no business interest at stake in writing about this. I just care about the subject. My perspective is simply that of an interested resident of the community, an observer of the Regional Partnership’s work, and someone with a branding and marketing background.