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Grant targets tourism
On ‘15 Magical Miles’ project
Sunday, April 27, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
A recent grant will be used to create a plan to make a 15-mile stretch from Bassett to Koehler into a greater tourism destination.
At the Henry County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, the board accepted a $35,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD) for the “15 Magical Miles” project. The county is assisting the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative with the project.
The board used the funds to award a technical assistance contract to Hill Studio of Roanoke, which will develop a master plan for the project.
The Harvest Foundation created the collaborative in 2013, according to Nancy Cox, senior program officer for Harvest.
The goal of the collaborative is to “bring community leaders around the table to develop a shared vision for placemaking and destination tourism for the small towns of Bassett, Stanleytown, Fieldale and Koehler,” she said in a news release.
The Smith River is the common thread between the four towns, she said.
Since April of last year, the collaborative, which is co-chaired by Bill Adkins and Jeb Bassett, has met regularly. The collaborative’s first product, she said, was a map of the “15 Magical Miles,” highlighting annual events, historic sites, restaurants, shopping destinations and other highlights of the four towns in the 15-mile stretch.
Items on the map include the Fieldale Park, Philpott Dam, Textile Heritage Trail, Fort Trial, Stoneleigh, the Bassett Historical Center and several restaurants.
The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) is helping the collaborative promote these sites online, Cox said.
The collaborative’s next initiative, she said, was to identify improvements that could be made within the “15 Magical Miles.” These improvements fall into two categories: needed/enhanced amenities and revitalization/curb appeal.
In the category of amenities, the collaborative identified four priorities: the need for town squares; new signs; historic street lights; and attractive landscaping.
The collaborative also discussed façade and sidewalk improvements.
In the category of revitalization/curb appeal, the collaborative identified four additional priorities: expanded walking and biking trails; a bait shop or outfitter for fishing, canoeing and biking; enhancements to the Bassett train depot; and the creation of an outdoor music venue.
The collaborative also discussed the creation of additional camping areas, a recreation complex and a fairground.
Hill Studio, which specializes in community planning, landscape architecture and historic preservation, will use the block grant to work closely with the collaborative and its partners to help fine-tune a plan to address the collaborative’s list of priorities, Cox said.