County’s reputation as outdoor hub grows
Shenandoah Valley was Howard Thompson’s get-away from Northern Virginia. “I used to escape the city on weekends and camp and hike and play in the Shenandoah River area,” he says.
Thompson now makes the area his home. The part-owner of Appalachian Outdoors Adventures, an outdoor gear shop in Luray, is the chairman of the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce.
Like Thompson, a growing number of tourists are drawn to Page’s outdoor activities, which include hiking, backpacking, cycling and fishing. Chamber President John Robbins says the county, which includes the towns of Luray, Stanley and Shenandoah, has seen increasing growth in outdoor tourism. This year, cyclers and their families were expected to spend as much as $100,000 on food, merchandise and lodging in Page. That’s up from $80,000 in 2012, $56,000 in 2010, and $40,000 in 2009. Page will hold eight cycling events this year, including Luray’s triathlon in August, which draws 750 participants.
Recently, Luray and Page County were named an official Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and manage the more-than-2,000-mile trail. The designation is important for two reasons, Robbins says: it adds to the area’s reputation as a hub for outdoor activity and it will help economic development.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy helps promote the Appalachian Trail Communities through its website and publications, signage and news releases. The organization also provides guidance and helps trail communities network with each other, says Mark Wenger, CEO of the Harpers Ferry, W.Va.-based group. “We want to make sure this is a really functioning idea that will help them out,” Wenger says.
Luray-Page County joins 29 other Appalachian Trail Communities along the trail running from Georgia to Maine.