ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- In Rockingham County, it's not hard to find an outfitter that's ready to guide you down a lazy river on a canoe or lead you through the rolling rapids.
Rockingham County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Richardson says the county is in the perfect location to bring nature and job growth together.
"The topography, the natural resources of the land and with the educational opportunity, it matches the desires of our citizens," says Richardson. "They want good jobs."
Rockingham County leaders and Duke Energy are joining with outdoorsman and educators to create the Duke Energy Trails at Rockingham Community College.
Dr. Mark Kinlaw, Rockingham Community College President, says the first community college program of its kind will train students for outdoor recreation jobs and education.
"It could be those that are interested in canoeing and kayaking, CPR, water rescue those interested in working in a park,” Kinlaw said.
The trails program will also focus on trail building. Chairman Richardson says people that can design and build trails are in demand.
"Particularly in the trails area for bicycling, hiking, and jogging. Trails are becoming more prevalent in our state and I think nationally."
The trails program will begin this summer with classes in wildlife and trail building. In the future, Dr. Kinlaw says the new hands-on program will expand and take on university partners.
"In particular Appalachian State. Could partner with East Carolina and N.C. State," says Dr. Kinlaw. "But we have been contact with Appalachian State, it would be a focus on Outdoor Recreation Management."
And with a four year degree, a future graduate could return to Rockingham County and hire folks to work in the thriving outdoor recreation market.
According to Outdoor Industry Association, Americans spent over $800 billion on outdoor recreation and created over seven million American jobs.
Duke Energy is giving Rockingham Community College $700,000 dollars for the trail program. This is the largest single gift to a North Carolina community college.
Over $600,000 will go to cover the start-up cost of the trails program. $90,000 will be in the form of scholarship money for Virginia students. The trails program begins this summer.