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Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Virginia Oyster & Water Trail Eco-Tourism Collaboration 

Project Description:

The Eastern Shore, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck will work together to build new and expand existing eco-tourism initiatives. Collaboratively they will work towards a single platform to promote water trails and interconnect their similar assets for ease of access to explore rural coastal Virginia. Such resources are in high demand, as evidenced by the 9,584 unique visitors who used the VCZMP Seaside Water Trail website between September 2016 and September 2017 and the 1,798 Facebook fans (as of Sept. 26, 2017) for the Virginia Oyster Trail. Efforts will bring focus on diverse coastal ecosystems, engage local stakeholders to avoid use conflicts, and create a sustainable plan for economic and educational initiatives that need long-term planning in order to survive and thrive. Together the regions encompass approximately 4,785 square miles of rural landscape with 5,300 miles of shoreline, a fact that has established a rich cultural history in water-based entrepreneurialism. This large, multi-regional project will support and generate direct, indirect, and induced jobs - jobs that rely on the natural resources of rural coastal areas. The individual products and cumulative effects of this program will address identified targets in the 2014 New Virginia Economy Strategic Plan and Virginia Statewide Tourism Plan.

During year 1, the A-NPDC proposes to update the decade old Seaside Water Trail, as developing new and ecologically appropriate water access on the Atlantic shoreline is a foundation to creating new waterside entrepreneurial opportunities. The MPPDC, known as Virginia’s River Country, is bordered on the south-west by the rivers of York, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Mobjack Bay (YPM2), which will be the focus of the year 1 inventory and eco-business water trail efforts in this region. The NNPDC will work on developing The Virginia Oyster Trail, focusing on an interactive website to facilitate connectivity among the participating communities, seafood producers, and trail users by building a digital infrastructure for creating trip itineraries to add economic value to the rural coastal area. All efforts to inventory assets and develop trails will use the National Water Trail System Best Management Practices toolbox and will focus on delivering cultural, historical, and stewardship messages, key to helping consumers understand the ecological importance and economic opportunities the Chesapeake Bay watershed presents.

Throughout the implementation of each region’s unique projects, there will be Rural Coastal Virginia Ecotourism Steering Committee meetings to exchange ideas, design themed branding for the regional water trails, and share progress. These collaborative meetings will decide the format of digitally presenting our water trails, ensure programs are compatible and comprehensive, and develop long-term plans for The Virginia Oyster Trail, the water trails, and the Virginia Ecotour Guide Certification Program. Commitment and support have been confirmed from a variety of stakeholders, identified in Section IV. Deliverables/Products.

These efforts will be built upon through water trail expansion, oyster trail enhancement, and extensive marketing during year 2 and 3. Additional details about the Bayside Water Trail, the Mobjack Bay and Severn River Water Trail, and the Virginia Oyster Trail expansion and success metrics, can be found in Section VI. Extended Project Description.

In Virginia’s rural coastal regions these programs will help strengthen economic value, create jobs and sustain ecological assets in the face of stressors, such as decreasing population, declining economic growth and changing landscapes exacerbated by sea level-rise. The synergistic effect of working together across regional boundaries will produce results on a large scale, create a sustainable ecological and economic model, and show an environmental and economic return on investment for years to come. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Shannon Alexander, 757.787.2936 ext. 115;  

Project Status:

10/1/2017 - 9/30/2018; Project Open 

Final Product:

Virginia Oyster & Water Trail Eco-Tourism Collaboration Final Report (PDF) 
Appendix A. (PDF)

Project Summary:

The Eastern Shore, Middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck worked together and with partners to enhance existing water trails, develop an engaging itinerary tool for the Virginia Oyster Trail, develop the Virginia Water Trails website, establish the Rural Coastal Virginia Alliance (RCVA), advertise the 2019 Ecotour Guide Course, and promote our similar green assets.

The first year of this large, multi-regional three-year project has begun the process of supporting and generating direct, indirect, and induced jobs - jobs that rely on the natural resources of rural coastal areas. The individual products and cumulative effects of this program will address identified targets in the 2014 New Virginia Economy Strategic Plan and Virginia Statewide Tourism Plan.

The three rural coastal PDCs in the Committee established the Rural Coastal Virginia Alliance (RCVA), purchased several domains to be used for that collaborative Alliance ( & The Committee  decided on the Mission and Vision Statements, which are featured on the new website on the ‘about us’ page. Meeting agendas, minutes, and supplemental information can be found at The minutes include a list of members and invited guests that were present.

The “Virginia Water Trail” logo was developed, along with regional identifying versions of that logo. The Virginia Water Trail website was developed and went live in November and was presented at three state-wide conferences that month during a presentation highlighting the regional efforts for ecotourism made possible through this grant project. The power point used during these presentations can be found at The Middle Peninsula developed outreach materials to support the new water trails website, had stakeholder meetings, inventoried assets, and designed a new Google-based map. The Eastern Shore held three stakeholder meetings for the Seaside Water Trail and developed a new Google-based map. The Northern Neck worked closely with the Artisan Center of Virginia to develop the new digital engagement tool for the Virginia Oyster Trial.

The three regions and their partners look forward to refining the website, the Virginia Oyster Trail digital engagement tool, holding the 2019 iteration of the Virginia Certified Ecotour Guide Course, and further enhancing tools that feature the nature-based economic assets of Coastal Virginia in a sustainable way moving forward with year two of this three-year effort.

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

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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