By Nancy Lindsey
Patrick County has applied for a planning grant of up to $40,000 for a Meadows of Dan revitalization project, according to Joseph Quesenberry, director of tourism and marketing.
There would be no local match and no county taxpayer funds required if the initial grant is approved by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Quesenberry said.
Fifty residents, including members of the Meadows of Dan Community Association, met at the Meadows of Dan Community Center Jan. 14 with Nick Proctor, a representative of the DHCD.
The planning grant would be used to develop an economic analysis and conceptual plans for carrying out the community’s ideas, and would lead to the second phase of implementing the plans, Quesenberry said.
The amount of the second-phase Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is typically $700,000, but can be more. The project is listed in the county’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Priority Projects list at $2.3 million, but the actual amount would depend on how much state money is available and how the project is defined.
Proctor gave a program to the Meadows of Dan group illustrating how the grant was used to revitalize Cleveland, a small town in Southwest Virginia located on the Clinch River.
The grant was used to build sidewalks, develop a town park, additional parking, and a canoe launch, which also benefited other towns along the Clinch River, Proctor told the group.
The program led to new shops and businesses opening up in Cleveland, a large increase in population, and a total investment of $2 million in state, local and private business funds, Proctor said.
“We will actually be one of the few counties (if not the only one) to apply for this grant,” Quesenberry said. “Usually it’s towns that apply.”
The town of Stuart has successfully applied for several DHCD grants in recent years, including those used for Mayo Court, Chestnut Street and Forest Lane, downtown revitalization and uptown revitalization.
“The state guy was absolutely blown away” by the number of people who attended the meeting, Quesenberry said. Few introductory meetings have that kind of attendance, he said.
Some of the ideas floated in the meeting included a walking trail from Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Nancy’s Candy Factory; an amphitheatre, park, water and sewer facilities, sidewalks and additional parking spaces, park benches, public restrooms, and street lights.
The overriding goal, for both the Meadows of Dan community leaders and the state grant-funding agency, is to improve the area’s economy, fill up vacant buildings, stimulate job growth, and rejuvenate the business section, Quesenberry said.
Another advantage of the grant program would be a facade improvement loan of up to $10,000 per business, which would be forgiven after a certain period.
Few areas have such a beneficial tourism location as Meadows of Dan, being adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, he said, adding that a recent study showed 15 million people visit the parkway annually.
“Due to good weather in December, the largest number visited the parkway that month since 2008,” Quesenberry said.
The exact area to be targeted by the grant has not yet been delineated, Quesenberry said. That will be decided by community leaders in Meadows of Dan and aided by aerial mapping, he said.
The state agency is trying to link revitalization efforts with existing programs such as the Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail, the ‘Round the Mountain Artisan Trail, and the new Appalachian Spring (which focuses on outdoor recreation) and the Virginia Brew Trail (which celebrates breweries), Quesenberry said.
These driving tours or planned experiences can be combined to create a variety of vacation plans—and could easily include Meadows of Dan, Quesenberry said.
The grant application is supported by County Administrator Tom Rose, Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss, Chris Owens, chairman of the Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council, and the Meadows of Dan Community Association.