Sunday, January 22, 2017

Greenbrier Valley Airport (KLWB) attracts Pocahontas tourism partners

MAXWELTON — Despite Greenbrier Valley Airport’s recent struggle to maintain regularly scheduled commercial flights, manager Stephen Snyder is finding great success in drumming up support from the region’s tourist attractions.

Serving an area that includes such high-volume visitor magnets as The Greenbrier, The Omni Homestead and Snowshoe Mountain, the airport’s viability is crucial to the continued success of its tourism partners, according to Snyder.

“Airports are an economic driver for the community,” he said this week.

In order to cement those bonds, Snyder has begun working with consultant Molly Wong to invite potential tourism partners from Pocahontas County to describe their enterprises to the Greenbrier County Airport Authority.

Representatives of three nonprofit partners — groups associated with Watoga State Park, the Greenbrier River Trail and Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad — delivered brief presentations to the authority during a meeting at the airport Tuesday.

David Elliott, chairman of the Watoga State Park Foundation Inc., told of Watoga’s four major annual tourism events, putting special emphasis on the largest of these — the Mountain Trail Challenge, a race event that comprises a half marathon in addition to 5K trail races.

Last year’s Challenge attracted 118 contestants, Elliott said. Slated for Aug. 12, this year’s race will be advertised throughout the Eastern Seaboard, he said, inquiring if the airport could help publicize the event.

Snyder said that the airport now has an interactive online calendar which provides not only listings of local events but also links to the sponsoring entities’ web pages.

“We can be a clearinghouse for this information,” Snyder said.

Other major tourist-friendly events planned for Watoga this year are the Wild Edible Festival/Earth Day celebration April 21-22, the Mushroom Foray July 21-22 and Art in the Park, slated for Labor Day weekend. Watoga will also celebrate its 80th birthday as a state park July 1.

For more information about Watoga, visit or

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“We’re a tourist county,” said Lawrence “Laurie” Cameron of the Pocahontas-based Greenbrier River Trail Association.

The trail itself is quite popular with tourists, although the most-visited portion — located in Greenbrier County — is currently closed due to damage sustained in last summer’s devastating flood.

Cameron said that it took the trail four years to recover from the flood of 1985, but he hopes for a quicker turnaround this time, given the number of people who are raising funds for its restoration.

“It’s going to cost quite a bit — hundreds of thousands,” he predicted.

Cameron’s recommendation for his organization is that it not wait “until we have every dollar in hand” before proceeding with the necessary work. He said the GRTA should instead contact “willing contractors” who have time and inclination to work on the trail’s restoration for a few days in between other projects and “pay as we go.”

“Let us know how we can help,” Snyder said.

The airport manager suggested that the association contact the Army Corps of Engineers or the Seabees, members of the U.S. Naval Construction Forces, for assistance. Snyder said Seabees take on domestic projects to hone their skills for more challenging work in combat situations.

Also, pending confirmation of legality, Snyder said the airport might be able to lend a bulldozer to the association or make use of the “fill dirt” that needs to be carted away from the site of a 400-foot-long, 150-foot-tall mudslide that still covers a section of the trail.

When the 80-mile trail is fully open, it provides a $3.5 million annual economic boost to the local region, according to figures provided this summer by the state chief of parks.

For more information on the trail and the work of the GRTA, visit

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The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad is building on its success as a tourist attraction, with plans to eventually operate excursion trains along a 90-mile loop extending from Pocahontas County through Elkins in Randolph County.

Frank Hammons told airport authority members that the more rail lines that open in the network, the more tourists will be drawn to the region.

“We get a lot of passengers,” he said. “More is better when it comes to routes. People come for one and then stay to try another one.”

He predicted it will take around 10 years to bring the entire plan to fruition, mainly because the process involves so many regulatory hurdles.

The nonprofit organization operates the popular Cass Scenic Railroad and also works out of the Elkins Railyard, which is a hub for commercial hauling of materials like gravel, Hammons said. The Elkins site is “being built back up,” he said, noting there are plans to once again begin hauling logs across the mountain after Elkins and Cass are reconnected.

For more information, visit

To access Greenbrier Valley Airport’s online calendar, go to and click on “Calendar.”  
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