The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership has been awarded a $67,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The funds support the development of BRNHA’s Blue Ridge Craft Trails on the Qualla Boundary and in Jackson, Graham, Swain, Macon and Haywood counties.

The program will promote the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and regional artisans. It is designed to support the sustainability of craft artists and galleries, increase cultural tourism, and expand participants’ business skills through training sessions.

The Blue Ridge Craft Trails is a system of drivable trails for 25 Western North Carolina counties featuring 200 craft sites. It highlights the region as a vibrant center for traditional and contemporary handmade crafts by promoting craft artisans, arts organizations and heritage tourism.

“Craft is a growth industry for Western North Carolina and has established the region as one of the leading centers for craft production and education in the United States,” said Angie Chandler, director of BRNHA. “Yet, there is no strategic, region-wide marketing of craft to visitors. This project aims to strengthen the craft sector of our region’s economy by creating a coordinated and compelling regional craft brand and trail infrastructure to guide consumers to craft artists and experiences.”

Development of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails to date includes a new website (blueridgecrafttrails.com), marketing research and planning, listening sessions, a pilot project encompassing Clay, Cherokee and Henderson counties, map brochures, a rack card, and the launch of a local grassroots marketing initiative.

Over the next year, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails will evolve to highlight more than 200 craft artisans and cultural sites across the region. Travelers will also get tips on rounding out their experiences with nearby foods, breweries, music, outdoor activities, scenic views and places to stay.

To learn more about the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, visit BlueRidgeCraftTrails.com.