Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, Cumberland Trails Conference receive large ARC grant

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Earlier this month the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced two grants totalling $17 million to boost outdoor recreation tourism and strengthen the behavioral health care workforce. The grants came through the Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE), which provides funding to drive large-scale economic transformation through multi-state collaboration.

According to a press release from the ARC, a $9.3 million ARISE grant was awarded to the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation and the Cumberland Trails Conference. Impacting 12 counties across Appalachian Kentucky and Tennessee, this trail improvement project will develop a wastewater treatment plant and other necessary site preparation infrastructure for Boone’s Ridge, a new outdoor recreation and education destination located on former mine land near the Cumberland Gap National Park.

Boone’s Ridge will be a national tourist attraction spotlighting the wildlife, wild landscapes, art, history, and culture of the region. The project also supports the completion and maintenance of the Cumberland Trail by the Cumberland Trails Conference.

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The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation and partners bring a total $2,330,000 in matching to this project. In addition to building a wastewater treatment plant, project funding will be used to construct a 7,000 sq. ft. plant maintenance building, 3.5 miles of access road, and a 2-mile walking trail during the 24-month performance period. Within three years of its opening, Boone’s Ridge is expected to attract 851,900 visitors per year creating an economic impact of $200 million annually.

This project supports communities that are part of the Rural Partners Network, an all-of-government program that connects rural communities with resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic mobility.

“Appalachian states are blessed with natural beauty and rich resources, and investments like these are critical to expanding tourism and outdoor experiences that will be enjoyed for generations to come,” said ARC States’ Co-Chair Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “I thank ARC for encouraging multi-state projects that drive community investment and economic development.”

Also, a $7.7 million ARISE grant was awarded to Community Education Group. Impacting 56 counties across Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, this project will train and place new community health workers to strengthen the region’s behavioral healthcare systems, while creating new business and economic development partnerships.

This project expands on the Community Education Group’s successful community health worker training program, which trains individuals with lived experience in substance use disorder recovery to become community health workers.

“In order to create true, large-scale, transformational change in our region, Appalachians must be willing to work together,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “The collaboration fostered between the states receiving this round of ARISE funding not only impacts two of Appalachia’s major economic drivers, outdoor recreation and healthcare, but sets a precedent for the ways our economy can be positively impacted when Appalachians work across the state lines and think of all Appalachians as our neighbors.”

Since August 2022, ARC has used funding provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to invest $67.3 million in multi-state ARISE projects that will strengthen Appalachian business and industry, as well as support the development of new economic opportunities across the region.

ARC is accepting ARISE concept papers on an ongoing basis. The next deadline for concept paper submissions is April 30, 2024.

Learn more about ARISE: