Chris Schulz Published

Fayetteville Selected To Receive Federal Planning Assistance

The famous arched bridge across the New River Gorge is contrasted against a bright blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds.
The New River Gorge Bridge.

Fayetteville has been selected as one of 25 towns nationwide for the federal Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program.

The program is sponsored by a coalition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Northern Border Regional Commission.

Steph Bertaina is senior policy analyst at the EPA and manages the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program. She said the program aims to help small towns and rural communities boost outdoor recreation opportunities in their community and diversify their economy.

“We’ll be meeting with the community on June 6 and June 7,” Bertaina said. ”We’ve been working with the town of Fayetteville, with trail organizations, with local business owners, the Art Center. Lots of partners have come to the table to want to host this conversation in the community around what the community of Fayetteville would like to see in their future.”

All community members are invited to attend both days of the workshop, which will take place at the American Legion. Participants will collaborate to develop goals and specific actions to strengthen Fayetteville’s outdoor recreation opportunities and community amenities.  Interested citizens are encouraged to register to attend the free community planning event.

“This particular program, it’s really planning assistance that’s then aimed to help the community position itself for receiving implementation funds down the line,” Bertaina said. “We’ve had a track record of working with communities on helping them develop these really strong plans, which then can be put in place and hope and help to sort of draw in the funding to make it happen. We really need everyone’s voice at the table so we can hear where everyone wants to take their community moving forward.”

Matt Diederich, Fayetteville’s town manager, says this is an important opportunity to create a plan for improving the town’s infrastructure and connecting it to the New River Gorge while still maintaining the town’s character. 

“We want to maintain Fayetteville, we’re known as a cool small town, but also we know we’re lacking some infrastructure to support the recreation economy,” Diederich said. “We’re lacking walkability for our downtown, or even “bikeability” downtown and just connecting with all the great things the National Park has to offer.” 

Diederich said that the city has experienced some growing pains since New River Gorge became a National Park in 2020, and city leaders want to get a hold of the situation. 

“I think parking is the biggest one,” he said. “The lack of housing, the lack of places to stay. That’s kind of turned housing on its top and created a short-term rental market, we’ve lost family homes for people. I think signage, just to direct people around town. Those are our biggest issues that we’re facing.”

Community and program leaders are looking forward to the June workshops to ensure a vision is put in place that includes all community members

“We’re essentially creating something for the kids. We want the youth there too, because a lot of the things that we’ll put into play they’ll benefit from,” Diederich said. “We want to hear from people of Fayetteville and of the area because, yes, we’re doing stuff for the visitors. But more importantly, we want this to be a place where everybody wants to live and continue to live.”