I Travel Green
Ecotourism can be explained as responsible travel to pristine areas that often strive to be low impact and small scale. Ecotourism is one of Pocahontas County’s major strengths according the SWOT analysis. Within this county, there are many opportunities for elevation changes which means many great opportunities for visitors to use the established viewpoints to lookout upon the open wilderness. Pocahontas County finds itself to be the busiest around the fall months, when the leaves are beginning to change. Much of the county’s land is publicly owned, about sixty-two percent to be exact. This means that this land is in the hands of the national along with the state governments. Having so much land for visitors to explore is a major benefit for the county, especially for tourists that enjoy outdoor recreation. Within the county, there are eighteen registered historic locations, three national natural landmarks, and one national literary landmark. Also, there are three state parks and two state forests which offer tourists many lodging and recreational opportunities. In order to protect wildlife and ecology in the local area, seven wildlife management areas have been established.
Some of the main attractions that are known as strengths within the county include: whitewater attractions, caving, skiing, fishing, and all kinds of outdoor recreation activities. Within the whitewater sector, anything from class one to class five rapids are offered for enthusiast to catch their thrill. Caving is known to be one of the best kept secrets of Pocahontas County. People say there are many miles of underground tunnel that is still waiting to be explored. Snowshoe Mountain, one of the largest tourist accommodations in the county, offers many activities and even lodging for its visitors. Fishing, due to excellent water quality, is portrayed as some of the best available spots in the state.
As we know, Pocahontas County is a very remote area. This means that there are not many interstates/large highway, but only many two lanes, curvy roads. This can be hard for larger vehicles to get around on these roads, especially during the treacherous winter months. Due to the limited amount of road access, tourists may only be capable of visiting certain areas for the time period they are visiting because travel is so time consuming. Also because the county is so remote with very few large roads, travellers will choose to visit surrounding counties that are more accessible by interstate. Also, the county only house one major grocery store which is located in Marlinton at the southern end of the county and many of the gas stations close very early each evening.
The population of the county also affects the major attraction, Snowshoe Mountain. With only about 9,000 residents, Snowshoe Mountain must bring in about four-hundred outside workers in order to keep the resort up and running. Many of the recruited workers, are students attending college in the surrounding areas that make weekend commutes to work at the ski resort. During the summer months, Pocahontas County does not offer many high paying jobs or internships, so local students and residents usually commute to surrounding areas to find higher paying work.
Pocahontas County has many opportunities for tourism attractions within the area. I would say their biggest opportunity is their ability to advertise, especially as one of the more visited areas in West Virginia. The county has the great ability to offer all types of recreation activities for all types of visitors. This ability makes guests want to come back and also spread the word about the county and its list of opportunities. Although the county does not have a lot of room for growth because of the national and state owned land, I believe there could be some changes made to the area. By adding an outdoor school in the area, the county would be able to become more economically stable and Snowshoe Mountain would have students for work right in the area.
There are many opportunities throughout the county for locals as well as visitors. I believe that the county could advertise its traditional festivals to tourists instead of just mainly attracting locals. Also, the demographical features in Pocahontas County show the majority of the population is above twenty-four years old. This can affect the opportunities the county has to offer because they are aiming to benefit the majority of the population. For example, there are multiple gambling areas within Pocahontas County. As well all know, in order to enter a gambling establishment you must be 21 or older.
Threats are always necessary to be aware of, especially within a tourist town. Major threats to Pocahontas County include competition from surrounding areas along with over use of the precious land. With so many people from out of state visiting the county each year, natural resources become threatened. Some people understand the concept of Leave No Trace, but many people are also unaware that such a thing exists. Therefore trails are worn down, vegetation is lost, and garbage is left behind. For example, many people will go off of the marked trail and create “social trails.” Social trails are a major threat to the environment and cause wear and tear upon the pristine wilderness.
Weather conditions are also a major threat beyond the county’s control. Winter weather is more of a threat than anything during the summer months. For example, I explained how many of the roads are small, curvy, and only two lanes. Well when road conditions are bad, it is not easy for workers to clear them right away because of the long distance they must travel to access certain areas. Also because of the high elevations and cold weather, a lot of fog starts to form. I have experienced this before and it was impossible to see anything so I had to make sure I was driving extremely slow. This may have a negative impact upon visitors because many people do not expect nor do they want bad weather upon their vacation.