A document that sets the groundwork for efforts to establish an outdoor recreation economy in Wilkes County was approved by the Wilkesboro Town Council on Feb. 3 and Wilkes Economic Development Corp. on Friday.
The three-page memorandum of understanding (MOU) was presented at the Feb. 4 North Wilkesboro commissioners meeting and remains under consideration.
The MOU said the goals include improving the health of Wilkes residents, creating jobs and “positioning Wilkes as a multi-faceted outdoor tourist destination.”
The document, which isn’t legally binding, delineates roles and responsibilities of a newly-established outdoor recreation economy work group. It lists activities to achieve goals, as well as the purpose.
The work group includes Health Foundation Director Heather Murphy, Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority Director Thomas Salley, North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland, Wilkes County Manager John Yates, Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard, Wilkes Economic Development (EDC) Director LeeAnn Nixon, Yadkin River Greenway Council Director R.G. Absher and Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor Chairman Eddie Barnes.
Nixon said during the EDC board meeting Friday that the MOU resulted from the Health Foundation bringing several people in the work group and others together to attend an outdoor economy conference in Asheville a few months ago.
She said the MOU would probably be needed to apply for grants as part of the effort. Although still a draft, said Nixon, the MOU essentially is a completed document.
Nixon also shared a draft logo for use in promoting Wilkes as a place for outdoor recreation and to help draw businesses that make and/or sell products for outdoor recreation. She said it would be used with the Wilkes EDC and other local logos to make sure people connect it to Wilkes County.
“I would like to see the manufacturer that makes components for mountain bikes come here or something having to do with kayaks or canoes,” said Nixon.
“Or, it could be entrepreneur who starts an experience-type business, like zip lining. Perhaps canoeing and kayaking that you can do right in town instead of having to go out of town to the edge.”
Members of the work group have discussed hiring a consultant to assess current outdoor recreation assets and develop an outdoor recreation master plan, but nothing in the MOU commits any of the organizations involved to spending any funds.
The goals also include branding and marketing Wilkes, exploring opportunities for new employers, identifying infrastructure needs and opportunities, creating a map that identifies natural partners and utilizing resources of the High Country Council of Governments.
The MOU notes that outdoor recreation is already a powerful economic engine in North Carolina.