This post is from the Destination Stewardship Report (Spring 2022, Volume 2, Issue 4), an e-quarterly publication that provides practical information and insights useful to anyone whose work or interests involve improving destination stewardship in a post-pandemic world.
The City of Brevard sits nestled amongst the mountains of Pigsah National Forest. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
Repairing Tourism in Transylvania County, NC
Another winner from the Top 100 – Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. This entry, from the winners announced last year, showcases how a popular North Carolina county created a locally supported program to clean up its tourism wear and tear. Synopsis by Supriya A. N.
Top 100 submission by Lee McMinn, Transylvania Always.
In the Wake of Overcrowding, Eco-sensitive Transylvania County Mobilizes Stakeholders to Enhance Sustainability
Visitors cool off at a popular waterfall and swimming hole. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
The love of nature and desire to spend quality time outdoors has resulted in a spike in visitor numbers beyond the carrying capacity in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Not surprisingly, this was causing long-term damage to park resources with overcrowded trails, worsening water quality, increased litter, and even death and injury. The inconvenience caused by overcrowding led residents to question the positive effects of tourism as a vital contributor to the local economy.
Trail maintenance is crucial for access to outdoor recreational activities. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
To establish the long-term sustainability of the region and restore balance to the natural environment, Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority created a subcommittee called Transylvania Always whose mission addresses the above issues. Transylvania Always partnered with various environmental agencies, non-profits, public land managers, volunteer organizations, and public relations firms to establish a sustainable natural environment for visitors’ safe and memorable enjoyment of the region and diversify the local economy with consistent tourism income.
Some of the steps that helped achieve their goals are:
Offering grants to agencies to improve the quality of the experience by repairing and rerouting trails, and improving river safety
Consulting with experts to study and develop a comprehensive river inventory to better implement safety strategies and any new activity near the water body Trail maintenance is crucial for access to outdoor recreational activities. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
Hiring agencies to develop materials to convey the message of trail etiquette, waterfall hazards, and organize campaigns like ‘Leave It Better’ motivating residents and visitors to pick up litter and keep the surroundings clean
With these measures, Transylvania Always changed the narrative of the county as an overcrowded destination to one that’s better managed through active and enthusiastic participation from various stakeholders.