Bland County is a recreational paradise, and along with Southwest Virginia, is becoming a hub for tourism. The scenic vistas, historical landmarks, outdoor activities, and abundant rivers, lakes and streams make this area a mecca for visitors. The beautiful mountains and temperate climate provide ample opportunities for the most avid sportsman to moderate recreationalist and contemplative naturalists.
30 years ago the A.T. skirted the southern boundary of Bland County traversing a long, very dry and somewhat inaccessible mountain-top. When the A.T. was relocated away from the Walker Mountain ridgeline, greater Trail access for local citizens became widely available for the 56 miles of Trail winding through the county; and likewise provided numerous possibilities for thru-hikers to obtain both needed supplies and the opportunity for stop-overs to rest and recuperate.
While ‘Trail Angels’ and local businesses welcomed and sustained the rather unusual strangers looking for mail drops, hiker-hostels, and other services, local residents were becoming increasingly aware of the very real treasure that the A.T. had become and ever-more appreciative of the outstanding quality of life that exists in their area.
In 2011, an Advisory Committee formed to facilitate Bland County’s application to become a designated A.T. Community. From the outset, this committee has advocated the enhancement of all aspects of the great outdoors for improving the health and enjoyment of citizens and visitors alike. Each monthly meeting has explored and endorsed ways for the local community to take an active role in preserving and protecting the A.T., as well as other meaningful outdoor pursuits available in the county. As Bland County partners with the ATC, the Advisory Committee brings increased alliances, energy, motivation, and the impetus to boldly move forward with an ideology that can only improve on all that Bland County already has to offer. Bland County’s 56-mile portion of A.T. is maintained by 3 A.T. maintaining clubs: Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers (PATH), Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) and the Outdoor Club of Virginia Tech (OCVT), all providing support for the community.
Prior to acceptance as an A.T. Community, Deloras Gregory had already become the county’s first Trail to Every Classroom graduate. Deloras has formed a hiking club with students in the county and is working to incorporate the A.T. into her Physical Education classes.
The county’s designation will take place as part of the first annual Festival of Trails, celebrating all of Bland County’s beautiful natural resources and recreational opportunities. The county also hosts an annual Festival of Leaves, during the peak of fall foliage.
Learn more about Bland County here.
Diana Billips ([email protected]), the A.T. Ambassador for Bland County, is creating a valuable liaison between the local community and the ATC. Diana will be planning and leading hikes in the area, and encouraging local community participation.