By Taylor Boyd
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors recently voted to continue funding the Patrick County Visitor’s Center on a 30-day, month-to-month schedule – at least until after the board creates and approves the fiscal year 2022-23 budget.
Sandra Belcher, director of the county’s tourism effort, said tourism is an instant revenue generator for rural counties in economically disadvantaged areas in Southwest Virginia.
“Local governments rely on tourism for a large percentage of revenue to invest in local infrastructure like schools and roads and so forth,” she said.
Belcher said the visitor center helps further the state Tourism Department’s goal of attracting as many travelers to the county as possible.
The center, which is open six days a week, provides local and regional information, as well as lodging information to visitors. Belcher said artwork by local artisans also is housed in the center, and merchandise available for sale also is displayed.
She added that the center is a starting point for many visitors and new homeowners. “It’s a place for people in the community to meet. The Master Gardeners meet in the center as well as the Young Professionals,” she said.
Since Belcher’s office is located in the center, she and her staff have a close connection with entities and non-profits that wish to market their groups. “We get the one-on-one connections, the inside scoop, and that inside scoop is directly funneled to travelers,” Belcher said, adding the center is like a one-stop marketing billboard.
Since officially opening in May 2021, the center has recorded 1,433 visitors, and 510 signatures in its guest book.
Belcher said the center has welcomed people from 26 states, including California, and that it entertained a visitor from Maui in early March.
“It’s exciting to learn where people are from, and they’re excited to learn about our area and the visitors center is kind of like a one stop shop that will let people know” the unique offerings in the various areas of the county, she said.
In April, Belcher also will visit the Lambsburg Visitors Center, and create a display of Patrick County paraphernalia such as flyers, rack cards, event details, and local business marketing information.
That display will run through April, Belcher said, adding that she and her department are always on the lookout for new and unique ways to market Patrick County.
In other matters at the March 14 meeting, supervisors:
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Approved the bills, claims, and appropriations.
*Heard from Norma Bozenmayer, of the Smith River District, about the need for the county, schools, tourism center, and other organizations to support one another and work together to problem solve.
*Heard from Laurie Adkins about a proposed Christmas Festival at Rotary Field to raise funds for the local hospital effort.
*Amended the budget for fiscal year 2021-22 due to an increase of grant funding in the Patrick County Schools budget.
*Scheduled a public hearing for 6:15 p.m. April 11 to adopt a new dangerous dog ordinance.
*Scheduled a public hearing to adopt the comprehensive plan on April 11.
*Scheduled a public hearing to move to once-a-year billing on April 11.
*Approved the Building Permit Fee Rebate.
*Approved the ARC resolution.
*Approved the TRRC resolution.
*Appointed Terri Mills to the ASAP Policy Board; Robin Hiatt to the CPMT Committee; Chris Ross to the Solid Waste Committee and Karen Spencer to the Solid Waste Committee.