A joint economic development and tourism initiative between Tazewell and Smyth counties, dubbed the “Back of the Dragon,” could hold great potential for the neighboring counties.
Located along Route 16 between Frog Level in Tazewell County and Marion in Smyth County, the 32 mile route has been already been unofficially dubbed as the “Back of the Dragon” by local motorcyclists because of the unique geography of the mountain and its 15-mile per hour curves. A similar trail located in Deals Gap, N.C., is called the “Tail of the Dragon.”
While the North Carolina trail is only 11 miles in length, it has generated economic growth for the region by creating lodging, restaurants and entrepreneurial opportunities. Now, Tazewell and Smyth county officials are hoping the 32 mile “Back of the Dragon” trail — already designated as a Virginia Byway — will reap similar economic development and tourism rewards for the region.
Tourism officials in the two counties are already planning a special event called Back of the Dragon Days that will be held in conjunction with the Southwest /Regional Recreation Authority and National Trail Days on June 4 at the Historic Crab Orchard Museum.
The idea for the local trail system was presented to the Tazewell County Tourism Committee by Larry Davidson, according to County Administrator Jim Spencer. Tourism officials believe the project will attract not only local motorcycle enthusiasts to the region, but also international visitors and automobile clubs from across the nation. Spencer said the project has the potential to spur entrepreneurial opportunities, create new jobs and increase tourism visitation.
A resolution supporting the new trail system was adopted last week by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.
Spencer said the basic infrastructure for the trail system is already in place. Now, the only challenge for county officials is to market the project in such a manner that no motorcyclist or sports car enthusiast can resist riding the “Back of the Dragon,” Spencer said in a letter forwarded to area lawmakers.
If local tourism officials can achieve the same level of success that North Carolina has had with the “Tail of the Dragon,” this new outdoor recreation initiative could prove to be another welcomed addition to ongoing efforts to promote Tazewell County as a regional tourism destination.
Although not directly related, the “Back of the Dragon” trail system should also complement the seven-county Spearhead Trail system also currently under development in the region.
This latest tourism and economic development endeavor is welcomed. It is our hope that local officials can emulate the success of the related project in Deals Gap.