By Emma Castleberry
Explore Asheville has joined Pledge for the Wild, a coalition of mountain towns dedicated to supporting responsible tourism in wild places by creating a direct channel for visitors give back locally. Pledge for the Wild is primarily made up of marketing organizations in towns out west, including Whitefish, MT; Aspen, CO; and Flagstaff, AZ. Asheville is the first east coast city to join the Pledge.
In Asheville, Pledge for the Wild donations directly benefit the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited National Park Service unit in the country and one of our region’s most significant natural, cultural and biodiverse assets,” says Marla Tambellini, senior vice president of marketing at Explore Asheville. “Yet budget constraints have resulted in a backlog of maintenance needs for its trails, campgrounds, picnic areas and overlooks. Philanthropic support of the Foundation provides resources to address these needs as well as the organization’s efforts related to education and historic and cultural preservation.”
Joining Pledge for the Wild is part of Explore Asheville’s ongoing effort to protect and care for the area’s natural resources and create pathways to sustainability. “We have adopted four strategic imperatives tied to broader community goals,” says Tambellini. “One is ‘Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel,’ which calls for us to engage residents and visitors with shared values to care for and respect our natural, cultural and human resources. Joining Pledge for the Wild is one among several ways we are carrying out this strategic imperative—others include sharing the principles of Leave No Trace to encourage responsible recreation.”
The direct donations made to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation through Pledge for the Wild will have an exponential effect. The wide-open spaces, sweeping mountain vistas, iconic hiking and biking trails, and lush green forests of the Parkway are major draws for visitors, so it follows that using funds to develop these assets will attract additional tourists and residents. Furthermore, aligning with Pledge for the Wild “sends a message to visitors that Asheville is an emerging leader in sustainable tourism,” says George Ivey, North Carolina development director for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
Pledge for the Wild essentially streamlines the process for visitors to make a donation via text or online. “Through Pledge for the Wild, Explore Asheville offers visitors an easy way to give back and protect the number-one driver of tourism in our region,” says Ivey. “What’s more, they are using their strong marketing position and huge following to engage large audiences who might not know they can help support the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation puts those donations to work in the Asheville area to improve Parkway trails, scenic views and picnic areas. Those investments are great for all of us—locals, tourists and tourism workers.”
To donate or learn more, text WILD4ASHEVILLE to 44321 or visit ExploreAsheville.com/PledgeWild.