City of Norton: Embracing Outdoor Recreation

There is no shortage of natural beauty in the City of Norton, Virginia. Located in the far western tip of Wise County, the community prides itself on unique outdoor assets like nearby Devil’s Bathtub and, above all, High Knob. This overlook sits at the peak of Stone Mountain and has become an anchor destination in Southwest Virginia.   

After losing thousands of coal-related jobs, Norton is reconnecting community members and businesses with outdoor assets to help their economy thrive in new ways. 

When we started experiencing the downturn in the coal economy, it was a gut punch. We all had to step back and re-evaluate where we were going to go.


Building Community Pride

In nearby Abingdon, Friends of Southwest Virginia works to preserve and promote outdoor and cultural assets. This not only builds community pride, but draws visitors and new, job-creating businesses to the area.  

$3 million ARC POWER grant has supported their efforts since 2016, allowing them to launch the “Appalachian Spring Initiative.” Based on hours of community conversations, this project helps coal-impacted areas across 19 counties and four independent cities develop economic strategies around their assets. 

In addition to supporting planning efforts in the City of Norton, the Appalachian Spring initiative is also developing access points to the New River, building an Appalachian Trail Center that opens this August, and creating a multi-use trail connecting Breaks Interstate Park to downtown Haysi’s business district.  

Through POWER and other partnerships, we’re able to add capacity and work with ARC and Virginia DHCD [Department of Housing and Community Development] to inspire communities to move projects forward.


A Regional Destination

For Norton and surrounding communities, the High Knob Destination Center will be the next phase in telling the area’s story. The center will share the history, and great future potential, of the nature and culture that make Southwest Virginia so special. 

“We are truly embracing a concept where, as a resident, your garage or back door is also your trail head,” Idalina said. “The proximity to that asset is a quality of life that we don’t take for granted.” 

Watch the video above for more from Fred and Idalina. ARC thanks them for sharing their stories of Norton and Southwest Virginia.