CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — In an effort to keep the Appalachian heritage of West Virginia strong, the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) has received a $197,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The Heritage Area covers 18 counties across the region with 16 in West Virginia and two in western Maryland. The organization’s goal is to promote the relationship between the land and its people, particularly by helping those in the tourism field by hosting training sessions and networking events.

Thanks to the grant, AFNHA is hoping to expand in-person gatherings as well as familiarization tours or ‘fam’ tours which “connect the organizations in different parts of our region so they can learn what other tourist attractions are doing around our region so that they can better help communicate to visitors what there is to do across our whole region,” according to Ben Duvall-Irwin, Communications Manager at AFNHA,

This is the second time that AFNHA has received a grant from the Benedum Foundation. The last grant allowed for them to conduct events over the last two years and give grant funding of $5,000 for tourism development projects.

With the funds, AFNHA now plans to spread the wealth through additional grant funding to organizations for tourism development projects, as well as anything that fits the organization’s mission as a national heritage area, according to Duvall-Irwin.