Foundation selects Destination by Design to guide economic growth planning

Photo by A. Armstrong, courtesy of Blue Ridge Parkway/National Park Service

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Vehicles driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway Vehicles driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by A. Armstrong, courtesy of Blue Ridge Parkway/National Park Service
January 31, 2023

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has selected Destination by Design of Boone to help create an economic development action plan to benefit the Parkway’s gateway communities in Virginia and North Carolina.

This work is made possible by two complementary grants awarded to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The grants designated $393,193 for Virginia and $517,924 for North Carolina, and are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and U.S. EDA’s programs to advance economic recovery and resilience in travel, tourism, and other sectors.

While the Foundation has already initiated discussions with hundreds of community leaders from Waynesboro, Va., to Cherokee, N.C., Destination by Design will facilitate more detailed listening sessions in all 29 counties in the Parkway corridor, followed by a dozen regional meetings to explore specific issues and opportunities. The resulting action plan will identify key projects that will advance economic development in multiple communities within the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor.

This effort marks the first time in the Parkway’s 87-year history that all 29 Parkway counties will engage together to determine strategies that have wide-ranging benefits for the park’s neighboring communities.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway, the gateway communities, and 16 million annual visitors all depend on each other,” said Carolyn Ward, chief executive officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “We now have all the pieces in place to move forward together.”

“Our entire team is thrilled to be working alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to further unify the region around this world-class asset,” said Eric Woolridge, director of planning at Destination by Design. “There is so much amazing talent found here in the heart of Appalachia, and we feel especially fortunate for the opportunity to engage with so many great people and communities here in our backyard.”

To learn about the project, visit

Destination by Design (DbD) is an interdisciplinary planning, design, and communications firm based in Boone. DbD works solely within the public sector, helping local and state governments and community and regional organizations to plan, develop, and promote compelling destinations. For more information, visit