The natural gas industry in Virginia not only provides a valuable energy resource in the Commonwealth, but it has helped to spur new economic development and investment in the state through its assistance in providing access to allow the tourism sector of the economy in Southwest Virginia to expand and grow.
"Nature flourishes on these properties, outdoor visitors have the opportunity to see nature at its finest while traveling along the trails by ATV, on mountain bike, or by foot."
- Shawn Lindsey, SRRA Director
In fact, Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) Director Shawn Lindsey credits the gas industry with opening up the region to the great outdoors and refers to the industry as “the gateway for outdoor recreation in the Cumberlands.” The gas industry, he says, not only provides abundant, affordable energy for the nation, but at the same time, he adds, the industry has become one of the major contributors to giving people access to the great outdoors and recreation in Southwest Virginia through SRRA’s Spearhead Trails system.
It is through the property access granted by companies within the industry to Spearhead Trails allowing the trail system to be built on their properties that has contributed to Spearhead’s efforts to spur tourism growth and investment in the state.A recent independent economic impact study commissioned by SRRA to examine the cumulative impacts the trails have had in the state show they have contributed to dozens of small businesses opening up in support of the trails in the coalfield region of Virginia. Statewide, in the past four years, the economic impact was estimated at $20 million and in last year alone, the impact was in excess of $9 million. The trails are estimated to support 168 full-time jobs and those numbers, Lindsey says, are expected to continue to grow as the trail system becomes more well-known.“This would not have been possible without the help and continued support of the gas industry,” Lindsey says. Access to the properties owned by the gas industry, he adds, are what have made the trail system a reality.“Nature flourishes on these properties,” he says, noting that outdoor visitors have the opportunity to see nature at its finest while traveling along the trails by ATV, on mountain bike, or by foot. He points to the elk population in Buchanan County and the deer, bear and bird species found throughout the trail system. “Our partnerships have led to improved environmental management of these properties as we work together to extend our trails,” Lindsey says. “We have worked together to build the economy of Southwest Virginia and in so doing have helped to create a more diversified economy.”
“Spearhead Trails was made possible by the partnerships extended to us by the extractive industries from the gas, coal and timber industries,” Lindsey says. “With the help of our gas partners, Spearhead Trails has been able to build more than 400 miles of trails in the last four years and it is expected with their support, we will continue this growth with more than 100 miles of new trails per year for several years to come.”A good portion of the mileage already developed and the additional mileage projected to be developed is located on properties controlled by the natural gas industry.