The Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor Partnership (YVHC) is a collaboration between four counties — Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin and parts of Stokes County. Leslie Schlender, director of economic development for the town of Elkin, Surry County Tourism Partnership board member, and chair of the YVHC Partnership, approached the tourism partnership with a request from YVHC for $8,000 to assist with a wayfinding and signage program.
The YVHC is rolling out signs throughout the four-county area, and signs leading to historical sites and attractions. The Department of Transportation recently approved the signs.
“Surry County has about 11 to 13 different signs, so when you cross the border into Surry County, it will say not only “Welcome to Surry County” but also “Welcome to the Yadkin Valley,” Schlender said. “At trail access, on scenic byways, and at historically designated sites, we will have the same type of signs available.”
With the Surry County Tourism Partnership using the slogan “Very Surry: The Art and Soul of the Yadkin Valley” since 2009, the signs and wayfinding from the YVHC will plug right into the partnership’s mission and promotional materials, Schlender said.
“The Department of Transportation is encouraging us to keep up with this, and not to stray…eventually we will have a discussion on how all this works in terms of our look. The more we can push the Yadkin Valley the more it will all streamline together. Surry has already signed off on this, along with Yadkin and Wilkes. Surry and Wilkes will have their signs next and we have mapped out a loop trail with this themed signage.”
President of the Surry County Tourism Partnership Burke Robertson said he would like to see a budget before the group approved the request for $8,000. “I want to see a list of the signs and all the details,” Robertson said. “We have contributed in the past, but we want to see what we are getting.”
Schlender said Robertson’s request would be no problem, and mentioned that $7,500 was coming from the Yadkin County Tourism Development Authority, about $3,000 to $4,000 from Yadkin County, $8,000 from Wilkes County, and $2,500 from the Wilkes TDA, and $8,000 from the TDA in Elkin. “The amounts from others are very much on par with this request to the tourism partnership,” Schlender added.
“I think we should fund this. It has good momentum, good legs to it,” Marketing and Tourism Director for the Mount Airy Visitors Center Jessica Icenhour Roberts said.
“As long as we get a formal request, we will come together at the next meeting and make a decision on this,” Robertson said.
Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor
In 2005, the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor was established as part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage area, with a mission to increase recreational infrastructure in the Yadkin Valley region by creating a trail system along the Yadkin River, and also to develop a scenic byway and a wayfinding program with signs visually announcing to visitors and locals when they have entered the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor.
New banners already hang in downtown Elkin, Pilot Mountain and Boonville, with more banners expected in towns across the Yadkin Valley, as the partnership launches the wayfinding program throughout the region. Banners will soon go up in Dobson, Jonesville, North Wilkesboro, Ronda, Wilkesboro and Yadkinville. One side of each banner features the town name along with an image of the town, with the backside featuring the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor Partnership’s logo and the tagline, “It starts with a river.”
The collaboration is another example of tourism leaders and representatives from regional attractions working together to encourage regional tourism, since visitors rarely pay attention to county lines, instead choosing to travel throughout the region.
Promoting the Yadkin Valley as a regional tourism destination has its value, according to the Surry County Tourism Development Partnership, who use the Yadkin Valley in promotional materials — “The Art and Soul of the Yadkin Valley.”
Gateway signs announcing that travelers, locals and visitors are entering the Yadkin Valley will be placed along major highways and secondary roads. Signs already have been placed in Wilkes County, and Surry County will receive signs within the next few months.
The group also promotes visitation at historical and cultural attraction, outdoors and recreational activities, wineries, scenic byways, and agritourism.
Four scenic byways are listed on the partnership’s website — www.goyadkinvalley.com — including several in Surry County: the Hanging Rock Scenic Byway, which leads from Mount Airy to Hanging Rock State Park along N.C. 89/Westfield Road; the Leaf to Vine Scenic Byway, which leads from Round Peak Vineyards on Round Peak Church Road, onto N.C. 89, to Beulah Road, Haystack Road, River Road, and beyond; and the Blue Ridge Parkway, beginning where it crosses from Virginia into North Carolina.
Funding for the wayfinding project was made possible through the support of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Golden LEAF, the N.C. Rural Center, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, local government and agency contributions, and local tourism partnerships. The Federal Highway Administration awarded two grants totaling $124,960 to Surry and Wilkes County for implementation of the signage and wayfinding program.
Considering the entire Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor region, total visitation to the four-county area generated an economic impact of $240.99 million in 2011, which was almost a seven-percent increase from 2006, with numbers expected to be much higher for 2013.
For more information about the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor, visit www.goyadkinvalley.com.
Jessica Johnson may be reached at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.