Virginia Tech became the only university represented on the Governor's Outdoor Resources Advisory Panel when Gov. Mark Warner appointed J. Douglas McAlister, director of outreach program development, to serve on the committee.
The panel, which has 18 members, including two cabinet secretaries, is charged with creating short- and long-range plans for development and promotion of Virginia's outdoor resources, including nature-based, recreational, rural, and cultural assets. It will also submit executive, budgetary, and legislative recommendations to the governor by September 2003.
McAlister, who has had a long career in developing industrial parks, economic development programs, tourist attractions, and training for tourism professionals, believes that the development of outdoor recreation and tourism can boost the economy of the Roanoke Valley, the New River Valley, Southside, and Southwest Virginia. "The great natural beauty of this region is one of our greatest resources," McAlister said. "This approach to economic stimulus can bring money to the area without compromising its agricultural and natural assets. We must move ahead carefully to make sure that our natural resources are not compromised by poorly planned development, and this panel is a step in the right direction."
Outdoor, rural, and ecotourism activities to be reviewed by the panel include wildlife watching, hunting, fishing, canoeing, rafting, mountain climbing, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The panel will also focus on cultural activities related to history; heritage; industrial heritage; arts, crafts, artisans, and trades; agritourism; fairs and festivals; geographic tourism; and indigenous music.
The panel will take steps to establish an inventory of natural and rural cultural assets and make recommendations for supporting infrastructure and funding to assure their conservation, expansion, and promotion. Panelists will also provide counsel on the education and training of tourism professionals in rural and nature-based tourism so they will be prepared to address growing public interest.