Virginia Senator Tim Kaine met with regional outdoor businesses and government leaders last Wednesday at Carvins Cove, the nation’s second largest municipal park, to discuss potential opportunities for federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to be used in the maintenance and development of our regional outdoor assets.
Similar to the New Deal and the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) following the Great Depression, the post-COVID relief funding could offer the Roanoke Region generational infrastructure projects and much-needed maintenance of existing assets. The Roanoke Regional Partnership coordinated with local leaders to ensure that Sen. Kaine was aware of all the needs and opportunities throughout the region.
Sen. Kaine met with local representation to explore how additional federal funding could be used toward key infrastructure projects that enhance our region’s narrative and build Roanoke Region’s outdoor, livability brand.
Since the creation of Roanoke Outside in 2010, businesses, employers and tourism have all rallied around the successful outdoor narrative as a way to attract talent, companies and visitors to Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Outdoor assets have broad impact on community and drive our economy through tourism, talent attraction and population growth, business and wage growth, global brand/narrative, community health, and environment/public spaces.
The outdoor narrative is not just a livability story, it’s big business. The nation’s outdoor recreation industry boasts an $887 billion annual contribution to the U.S. economy. Regionally, the impact has been significant. The Roanoke Region has added 33 new outdoor businesses and employment in the sector has grown 18% since 2010. Compare to 3.9 percent at the state level.
With the increase in visitors and users, maintenance needs have outpaced funding and volunteer resources. Additional outdoor funding and development would continue to enhance the competitive advantage, act as a critical catalyst for our economy, and reinforce Virginia’s Blue Ridge as a top outdoor destination.
At the gathering Wednesday, land managers such as the Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent and National Forest Service representatives were there to collaborate with local government and outdoor-related businesses. Tim Kaine asked these entities “How can the federal government help?”.
Below are some potential projects that were highlighted in the discussion:
• Explore Park Master Plan
• Craig-Botetourt Scenic Trail (Rails-to-Trails Initiative)
• Greenway Development and Maintenance
• River Access (James, Roanoke, etc.)
• Blue Ridge Parkway Restoration
• Appalachian Trail maintenance
• Mountain Biking Trail Networks
• In-River Kayak Park Projects
• Regional maintenance fund or endowment
Placemaking and Livability is one of four strategic initiatives highlighted in the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s Thrive 2027 strategic plan. Working with partners at the local, state, and federal level, the Roanoke Regional Partnership and Roanoke Outside Foundation will continue to work towards improving the region’s incredible livability to maintain and strengthen this important competitive advantage.