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About Downstream Strategies, LLC

 Downstream Strategies is an environmental and economic development consulting firm focused on strengthening economies, sustaining healthy environments, and building resilient communities. At Downstream Strategies, we don’t just check boxes—we build futures.

Through our decades of work within the Mid-Atlantic and Central Appalachia, we are proud to be recognized as leaders in innovative economic development. Offering a wide range of services, we empower communities with data and resources to pursue new and sustainable avenues for prosperity. A key aspect of this work focuses on helping communities leverage trails for economic development. 

Trail planning is one of our fastest-growing and most sought-after service areas. Our trail planning team has worked with dozens of communities and counties throughout West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee to develop the plans needed to move their trail projects forward from concept into reality. As highlighted in our services listed below and our attached project experience, our trail-related work products routinely include: 

  • trail plans (site-specific recreation plans, county-wide trail master plans, etc.); 

  • regional trail connectivity analyses; 

  • market studies, economic impact assessments, grant proposals, and tourism plans for trail projects; and

  • GIS trail inventories and mapping products.

Downstream Strategies works at the forefront of regional trail network development in West Virginia. Since 2019, we have served as the lead technical experts for the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority—the first multi-county trail authority for non-motorized recreation in West Virginia. Through this work, our team is setting the bar for non-motorized trail networks in the Mountain State.


Application Information:

Sponsor: Appalachian Dirt (Zach Adams)

Years as a Business: 10+

Years of Experience in Trails: 10+

Products & Services

Our trail-specific services include:

Trail planning: We lead trail planning efforts ranging from small-scale, site-specific recreation plans to county-wide trail master plans and regional trail connectivity analyses. Renowned for our cutting edge geospatial analysis, every one of these plans features extensive GIS mapping and analysis.

Trail-based tourism planning: We are proud of our successful track recording helping small, rural communities design and develop trail economies from the ground up. Our staff have developed a model for strength-based tourism assessment, which has been successfully applied in dozens of communities and counties across West Virginia and neighboring states. Our tourism support offerings include market opportunity and feasibility studies, trail town development, economic impact assessments, and business-specific recommendations to help communities tap into the trail economy. 

Grant writing and funding strategy development: Each year, we are increasingly sought out by trail organizations to help them develop a fundraising strategy and craft grant proposals for implementation dollars. Downstream Strategies’ Senior Planner Sara Cottingham serves as the lead grants coordinator for entities including the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority and the Mon Forest Towns Partnership. 

Environmental remediation and due diligence: Downstream Strategies has a team of staff who specialize in environmental remediation and due diligence for contaminated properties. Our remediation team offers specialized due diligence services for recreational trails built on former industrial properties.

Implementation and construction: In addition to our trail planning services, we have in-house expertise in implementation and construction services ranging from project oversight to feature construction. We also offer long-term maintenance assistance. (Note: These services are not a primary focus of this membership application.)

While we take on projects nationally and internationally, much of our work is concentrated in West Virginia and our neighboring states, serviced by our four offices in Morgantown, Davis, Lewisburg, and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. We have put our skills to the test for a wide variety of clients and partnering organizations, and our experience speaks for itself: 

  • Since 2019, Downstream Strategies has served as the lead planner and technical service provider for the  Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority—the first regional trail network authority for non-motorized recreation in West Virginia. In 2021 we helped secure $1.1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to launch the Mountaineer Trail Network by 2024. Through this work, our team is setting the bar for non-motorized trail networks in the Mountain State.
  • In 2020 Downstream Strategies’ trail planning team crafted West Virginia’s first county-wide master trail plan for non-motorized recreation: the Preston County Master Trail Plan. Among the many landmark aspects of this project, the Downstream team mapped and assessed every non-motorized trail in the county and established key recommendations for connector trails. 
  • Downstream Strategies staff have crafted a number of trail plans ( Preston County, Tucker County, Alderson, WV) and trail-based tourism plans (Hinton, Fairmont, Tucker County,  Summers County, Preston County, Richwood, Matewan, and Whitesville, WV; Grantsville, MD) that are guiding implementation of trail and recreation-focused projects throughout the region. Most of these plans are currently being implemented to expand tourism and recreation opportunities in their target communities.
  • Through decades of work within the region, Downstream Strategies is proud to be recognized as a leader in innovative economic development. As experienced service providers for economic impact analyses, the firm specializes in crafting plans, studies, and market assessments that go beyond the theoretical. For example, its economic impact analysis and technical assistance was instrumental in helping the Friends of the Cheat secure $3 million in 2018 for the construction of the Cheat River Rail-Trail. 
  • Leaders in Richwood are currently implementing the recommendations established in Downstream Strategies’  2018 Tourism Business Opportunity Assessment, which they consider to be a game-changing plan for their town. The Richwood Chamber of Commerce then came back with follow-up questions specifically on how they could better market their community to mountain bike tourists. As a result, Downstream Strategies authored a targeted report in 2019 to help businesses and stakeholders in Richwood understand opportunities and marketing strategies that could help Richwood capitalize on mountain bike tourism. As of late 2021, we are currently helping the Town of Marlinton (part of the Snowshoe Highlands Area IMBA Ride Center) undertake this same work.
  • In 2018 Downstream Strategies completed a Tract Management Plan for an expansion of The Nature Conservancy’s Bear Rocks Preserve. The two-part plan provides both an ecological restoration plan as well as an exploration of nature-based economic development opportunities. Downstream Strategies staff developed recommendations for a proposed 16-mile trail network and provided cost estimates, an implementation schedule, economic impact assessment, and other guidance for establishing the trail network. 
  • Downstream Strategies crafted a riverfront redevelopment plan for the town of Alderson, West Virginia. It assessed existing downtown amenities, routed a riverfront trail loop, designed enhancements at five priority locations, and facilitated community design charrettes and visioning sessions to engage local residents and stakeholders in this project. 
  • Downstream Strategies staff planned, designed, and constructed a 20-mile multi-use trail system on 3,200 acres of the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area in Tucker County, West Virginia. These popular trails have become a favorite of locals and tourists. Additionally, the team planned, designed, and built a 3.1-mile multi-use trail that connects the Little Canaan Trails to the Heart of the Highlands Trail System. 
  • Downstream Strategies and Canaan Valley Institute partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to restore sections of Cheat Mountain, which included designing and building 20 miles of new multi-use trails in the Monongahela National Forest. 

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911 Greenbag Road