Downtown Culture, Connectivity, and Commerce
Destination by Design is helping the Town of Damascus integrate the Virginia Creeper Trail and other natural resources into their downtown. This process involves downtown façade improvements that will elevate the look and feel of downtown.
City of Damascus
Facade improvements, greenway connectivity
A highlight of this revitalization project will be a new trail to connect the Virginia Creeper Trail with Laurel Creek. Linking these assets is key to bringing bikers off the beaten path and into Damascus. With the design phase in full swing, a new park and amphitheater will be built along the new trail in 2018.
The Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the nation’s premier rail trails, having received numerous local, regional, and national accolades; including a 2014 induction into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame.
The numerous dedicated trails that crisscross the Blue Ridge Mountains are each beautiful and scenic in their own right, but few have a history like the Virginia Creeper Trail. This 35-mile multi-purpose trail in southwestern Virginia was once a railroad that saw the bulk of its action during the early 20th-Century. The steam engines that used to traverse the region’s unforgiving terrain have since given way to hikers, mountain bikers, and active families looking for adventure.
If the trail-friendly nicknames weren’t enough of a giveaway, the numerous bike rental shops, hostels, B&B’s, and sporting goods stores sprinkled throughout downtown leave no mystery as to who drives the local economy here.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is perhaps Damascus’ most well-known trail in a town that knows plenty. The appropriately named Creepers Way in downtown Damascus is proof enough of that reality. This trail – which cuts through the heart of downtown – represents a key pillar of support for the town’s economy. Located roughly in between the beginning and end points of the 35-mile trail, Damascus is strategically positioned to capitalize on tourism dollars from sleepy or hungry travelers looking for a way to break up their trips.
Town officials understand the importance of this unparalleled asset. That is why they sought out the professional advice of the DbD team to make sure that the town is taking full advantage of the opportunities that the Virginia Creep Trail affords them.
DbD is working with the town to develop the community buy-in that is critical to any planning process. The engagement process involves reaching out to local businesses, landowners, and other local partners who have a stake in driving more commerce in downtown Damascus.
Linking to Existing Assets
Each community’s asset base is different, and few towns with under 1,000 residents have the asset base of Damascus. In addition to the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Laurel Creek adjoins downtown Damascus, providing scenic views that further underscore the appeal of this outdoorsy town.
Damascus’ downtown streetscape, natural assets, and trail connectivity are a potent mix of assets for a town of its size. In order to be fully leveraged, these assets must be integrated into a plan that recognizes the impact that they can collectively have on the town’s future prosperity.
At its core, the planning process in Damascus is all about connecting more people to the downtown area in a manner that stimulates private investment and drives commerce. This is the formula for success in any small town economic development plan.
A locally-driven planning process is paramount to instilling the kind of commitments that can ultimately bear fruit over the long-term. This is a central tenet of the DbD-led planning process in Damascus. The small business owners and entrepreneurs that have called this small-town home for generations understand that complacency isn’t good for business.
Capturing more tourism dollars from Virginia Creeper Trail travelers ultimately comes down to improving connections to the built environment that result in a more compelling place for travelers to visit.
Damascus didn’t earn the title “Friendliest Town on the Trail” by accident. This hospitable small town has brought many a smile to the faces of Virginia Creeper Trail travelers over the years. Now, thanks to a community-driven planning process that leverages the town’s unique asset base, more visitors will soon connect with all that this town has to offer.