by Su Clauson-Wicker
Giles County Tourism Marketing Director, Cora Gnegy, loves anything to do with water and rivers — especially kayaking on the New River.
So it is not surprising that Gnegy and a Giles County task force began planning for the New River Water Trail™ soon after she was hired in December 2014. Anderson & Associates has assisted the county, Town of Pearisburg, and Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries in improving an existing boat ramp in Bluff City and designing a new boat landing near Ripplemead. The latter landing recently was designated a “Virginia Treasure” by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Both sites include concrete boat ramps, paved parking, and restroom facilities.
“The water trail now has landings every 5-8 miles along the river’s 37-mile course through Giles,” Gnegy says. “New River, by the way, has some of the best small-mouth bass fishing in the state.”
Gnegy also loves to hike and is especially enamored of Mill Creek Nature Park in Narrows, where she’s seen hidden waterfalls and hiked to Sentinel Point overlook. Narrows is an official Appalachian Trail Town, as is Pearisburg; more than 50 miles of the famed footpath run through Giles County. With more than a quarter of its land in Jefferson National Forest, Giles earns its name, “Virginia’s Mountain Playground™.”
“Our tourism effort is focused on natural outdoor recreation and features,” Gnegy says.
A major upcoming project is promoting the Muddy ACCE Race, a 5k run over a 20-obstacle course Oct.1. The race raises funds for an award-winning program that enables any Giles County high school graduate with at least a 2.5 average to attend New River Community College tuition free. So far, 119 students have been assisted by the ACCE (Access to Community College Education) program.
“Muddy ACCE is Southwest Virginia’s “Tough Mudder,” she says. “It features mud pits, beam crawling, a rope swing into the New River and more.”
Gnegy, a native of Shenandoah County, Va., came to Giles County in 2011 to work as a 4-H youth Extension agent while earning an M.S. in Agriculture and Life Sciences. She had previously coordinated all special events at historic Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown.
“I was taking kids hiking and fishing and doing all these great outdoor things,” Gnegy says. “It seemed natural to promote the wonderful natural resources in Giles County.”