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Virginia CZM Program 2007 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Eastern Shore Community College

Project Title:

Ecotourguide Certification

Project Description as Proposed:

Ecotourism has become a profitable business in recent years. In the United States alone nearly 50% of vacationers in 1998 incorporated nature based activities into their trips. As ecotourism has become more and more popular, the industry has grown to accommodate the increase in demand. Although ecotourism can be an economically important source of revenue for many areas, it can also take its toll on the environment. Unregulated use of natural resources has had disastrous consequences in many countries. For ecotourism to be a sustainable resource the environment must be protected, even as tourists are enjoying it. One way to protect our natural resources is through an ecotour guide certification program. A certification program was developed with CZM funds over several years. In FY 2002, through the Seaside Heritage Program (Task 12.10), the Virginia Institute of Marine Science created an Ecotour guide certification course and actually certified 19 guides whose certification was good through 2007 (4 years). Through FY 2003 Task 12.12, VIMS created a course to allow certified guides to become teachers. About 9 teachers were certified.

The goal of this project is establish those courses as part of the Eastern Shore Community College curriculum. Certified guide teachers (especially Dave Burden of Southeast Expeditions based in Cape Charles) will work with community college officials to establish the course at ESCC so that courses may be offered on a regular basis in the future.

The courses involve barrier island natural history, geology, endangered and keystone species found in the Eastern Shore region (particularly the seaside), as well as past and present impacts of humans on the Eastern Shore. The courses will be offered at the community college in Melfa, making them more easily accessible to most aspiring Ecotour guides.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Eddie Swain, Eastern Shore Community College - (757) 789-1752;

Project Status:

Project Closed

Final Product Received:

Virginia Eastern Shore Ecotour Guide Certification Curriculum Description (pdf)
Virginia Eastern Shore Ecotour Guide Certification Curriculum Outline (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Abstract:Eastern Shore Community College has developed a curriculum to train employees in certain segments of the Eastern Shore Tourism Industry to be qualified tour guides in environmentally sensitive geographic locales on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  The training will prepare employees to provide a high level of service to customers in highly desired tourism markets for experiences that can only be had on the barrier islands and in other remote areas of the Eastern Shore while also protecting these environmentally sensitive areas.  It is hoped that this will increase the Eastern Shore's tourism market share in this special "niche" market and that customers will leave their experiences with a deeper appreciation for the need to preserve and protect the rich eco-systems of remote places such as the Eastern Shore while also gaining a knowledge for how to protect the environment in their own lifestyle once they return home.  In this way, the Eco-Tourism certification will not only enhance the tourism economy of the Eastern Shore along with the financial and economic prospects of the related businesses and individual employees; it will also increase awareness about the specific environmental needs of Virginia's Coastal areas and, more generally, advance the cause of conservation with the customers who take advantage of the new services offered.

Project Results:The curriculum includes participant workbooks and facilitator guides (including PowerPoint presentation).  Hard copies of these documents will be shared with CZM, and electronic copies can be shared with other interested parties after the first round of classes has been conducted and the materials have been evaluated.  It should be noted that ESCC does not recommend the wholesale adoption of our curriculum in any other community.  Rather, our curriculum should be used as a guide for the development of local curricula that is customized for each area's unique set of environmental needs.

More importantly, our recommendation is to follow the process that was used at ESCC as a model for curriculum development.  The model used at ESCC was to engage the support and advice of various affected constituencies including local eco-tourism business owners, the Nature Conservancy, state and national park staff, the Virginia Tourism Commission and the local Eastern Shore Tourism Commission, local Chambers of Commerce and local environmental community organizers.  Together, these advisors helped us to develop the curriculum, disseminate marketing information, and promote the program for the College.

ESCC staff will be happy to share all materials developed and assist other educational institutions, tourism authorities or environmental agencies in establishing parallel processes for the development of localized curricula in other areas of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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