DAMASCUS, Va. (WJHL)- A groundbreaking event will happen in downtown Damascus on Tuesday, February 4 to kick off construction for a new Trail Center. The project is in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
“It’s just another spoke in the wheel of economic development, where we’ll be able to bring people into this town and have a reason to be here,” said Damascus Vice-Mayor Tim Williams.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will occupy the Center and bring educational opportunities to visitors year-round. Williams said the current closest visitor center for the nearly 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail is in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
“It’s a real feather in our cap to be able to get an organization like that to make a commitment to occupy this building here,” said Williams. “And it’s going to be great for them because they’re going to be right on the Appalachian trail.”
The new Center will be located on West Laurel Avenue and bring hikers and bikers right into downtown.
Williams said the final building costs are about $700,000 – with funding coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Tobacco Regional Revitalization Commission.
The new draw into town is expected to increase tourism, benefitting local business owners.
“The Creeper Trail and Appalachian Trail together are the biggest things that happen in town,” said Paul Dhoore, owner of Hikers Inn. “April, May, and June, hiker-wise, is the busiest time of the year for us. With that Center here, I imagine throughout the year there will be people visiting.”
The town has seen a surge of outdoor-related businesses set up shop, from shuttle services to outdoor outfitters. The new center will further Damascus’ reputation as ‘Trail Town USA.’
“For tourism and just having its presence in Southwest Virginia, not just Damascus, it’s much bigger than that,” said Williams.
The building is estimated to be completed by May 2020.