Morgantown Summer 2021 Edition

the program’s services and make connec- tions with nonprofits and activities across town. “We want it to be a community hub, a place where they come not only to work but also to socialize and network,” says Winfrey. outdoor recreation programming All types of recreational activities will be organized through the Ascend WV hub: “group bike rides on the rail-trail or at White Park, paddleboards on the Mon or a kayak day on Cheat Lake, weekend getaways in West Virginia’s best spots,” Winfrey says. This is a high-quality service: The Smith OEDC grew out of Adventure WV, a WVU program that has nearly two decades’ expe- rience offering WVU students adventure ed- ucation programming across the state and na- tion and internationally, so this organization knows how to lead trips, and staff members have experienced the personal growth and meaningful relationships that often follow. “We want to help participants connect with the state and with others in the community, really learn to fall in love with this place,” Winfrey says. Participants will have access to a free gear rental library, and outfitters across the state are participating in a Free Outdoor Recreation package that includes off-roading, rafting, ziplining, golf, and more. It’s this outdoor adventure component that organizers believe makes Ascend WV stand out among remote worker relocation incentive programs. This way of thinking is coded right into the DNA of the Smith OEDC, as you can see in the name: Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. The group aims to leverage the state’s natural environment to boost its health and economy. To ground this work, staff crunched some numbers in 2020 to understand just how unique the natural environment here is. AUTHENTIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURE CLOSE TO HOME Here in Morgantown, we live close to the great outdoors. Any day after work, if we want to, we can have a relaxing bike ride or a chal- lenging one, solve a boulder problem, paddle flatwater or rapids, cast a line, or hike through deep woods or to a scenic overlook. It’s a satisfying, adventure-filled way to live. But isn’t it like that in most rural places? In a word, no. Last year, the Smith OEDC undertook a

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