Business and Recreation Work Group

Several canoes and kayaks pulled ashore along a river
A flotilla of boats along the North Toe River. Credit: Gary Peeples

The Business and Recreation Workgroup focuses on developing positive connections and enhancing understanding of the monetary and aesthetic values of the French Broad River and its tributaries. By working with the business community (ex. gear builders, tour guides, breweries, agriculture, Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Development Authorities), recreation providers, and other interested stakeholders in the eight WNC counties that form the watershed, we believe the basin can support both values in ways that are river-friendly and sustainable for future generations to enjoy.

Our short-term goal is the completion of the Value of Water Economic Study. We consider this to be the first critical step for reaching our long-term goals. Our long-term goals include:

Trout swimming in clear water with a hand in the background
Trout being released back to the stream. Credit: Headwaters Outfitters
  1. Maintain and improve economic sustainability and recreation popularity of the watershed;
  2. Increase responsible use of the river;
  3. Celebrate improvements and health of watershed; and
  4. Expand breadth of participation in Business & Recreation Working Group.

Value of Water Economic Study

Caught a Smallmouth Bass! Credit: Jay Hawthorne

In 2019, we secured $56,000 in funding from a Community Foundation of Western North Carolina grant and several stakeholder donations to complete an economic study of the impact of the French Broad River on our region.

Dr. Stephen Ha from Western Carolina University was selected to complete the study and while it has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we expect it to be completed by April 2021. By using business and visitor surveys, his team will define financial contributions from a variety of economic sectors that include breweries, fishing and rafting outfitters, summer camps, agriculture and forestry, state and national parks, retail, and gear manufacturers.

The economic study will bring the first comprehensive study of the river’s business, tourism, and recreational values to numerous stakeholders. Stakeholders include local, state and federal government agencies; chambers of commerce; economic and tourism development agencies; conservation groups; local and statewide press groups; residents of the basin; and others. That visibility will enhance public perception of the river and increase engagement of public and private groups in making improvements that are river-friendly and sustainable.

We believe the study will have great utility to those stakeholders and will help guide efforts that include attracting new businesses, recruiting employees, and tourism development. It will be updated periodically with new data from existing sectors as well as new sectors that may not exist today.


  • John “Jay” Hawthorne (Co-Chair) – Trout Unlimited, Land ‘O Sky Chapter (
  • 2nd position currently open

Get engaged

  • Interested in joining the Business & Recreation workgroup? Please contact Jay for more information.