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Virginia Residents Hired to Manage Outdoor Recreation, Tourism Program

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Two Washington County (Virginia) residents have been recruited to aid in developing tourism and outdoor recreation in Damascus.

According to a report, Julie Kroll of Abingdon has been appointed recreation program director, and Jason Justice of Damascus will act as recreation project manager for the Southwest Virginia tourism hot spot that’s long been dubbed the friendliest town on the trail.

According to Kroll, Damascus has revamped its recreation department to increase its premier outdoor recreation destination within the Southwest Virginia region.

This action plan follows the wake of the new state-level Office of Outdoor Recreation formed by the former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in 2019.

The new Office of Outdoor Recreation was designed to spotlight and promote Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry and bring new outdoor-related businesses to the commonwealth.

As program director, Kroll plans to highlight an honor that the town recently received when named Top Tiny Town by the Blue Ridge Magazine’s list of top adventure towns.

“We’re so excited about this recognition,” Kroll said.

Katie Lamb, mayor of Damascus, said she is thrilled that the latest developments in town have led to the need for new workers.

“It shows the growth of our town and the good things going on, such as our new Appalachian Heritage Distillery and the Brinkwaters Hotel,” Lamb said. “The fact that we had to hire extra people to help us manage recreation and to bring more people to town is really exciting.”

Lamb stated that the appointment of Kroll and Justice would ease the burden off town officials, who have to work in multiple roles to complete recreational projects.

“Part of the roles had traditionally been split among the town manager, clerk, and treasurer,” Lamb said.

Tourists and residents can expect to discover exciting events happening throughout the town, in addition to community favorites like Trail Days, Beaverdam Friday Jams, and the Damascus Farmers Market.

As per Kroll, their role as new employees will also be to enhance the image of the community and feel of the place.

Damascus is a wonderful town with many recreational opportunities,” said Kroll.

Damascus is the top outdoor destination in the Southwest Virginia region. The town is well known for its recreational access, including the Creeper Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Mount Rogers.”

The new program director thinks that the pandemic wasn’t all negative for the region.

“Local businesses have reported growth despite the pandemic, which can likely be attributed to an increase in staycations and family road trips on weekends,” Kroll said.

Justice, who grew up in the town, said that he’s looking forward to seeing new growth and maybe some improvements along the way.

Kroll assists in marketing and tourism and coordinates the programming of recreational places in town, including the new Laurel Creek Park and the Appalachian Trail Center that is scheduled to open later this year.

“The new trail center will feature pop-up style events, workshops, and socials as ways to get the local residents more involved in the town,” she said.

The recreation department will also work with non-profit organizations, such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Creeper Trail Conservancy, protecting, managing, and advocating for those trails.

Kroll is also responsible for publishing a quarterly newsletter, another tool to inform the community about upcoming events happening in the town.

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