By Aila Boyd
The Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia announced last Wednesday during a press conference at Carvins Cove that it awarded $250,000 in grants to five local jurisdictions– Roanoke County, Botetourt County, Franklin County, the City of Salem, and the City of Roanoke– to support tourism efforts to bring wayfinding signage to the region. The uniform signage will help visitors and residents alike better navigate the Roanoke Valley.
Each of the localities received $50,000 in grant funding, but was required to contribute $25,000 in matching funds.
“I want to thank The Community Foundation for the generous funding for this project,” Phil North, chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, said. He noted that the foundation does a “great job” of meeting the needs of the communities that it serves. “Their efforts will help us support our efforts to help citizens and visitors as they explore our wonderful destinations.”
“These grants come from the foundations’ unrestricted Community Catalyst Funds which allows us to respond to various needs in the community without being tied to a particular purpose,” Michelle Eberly, the foundation’s director of grant and donor engagement, said. “We are delighted to be in a position to provide significant support to bring regional wayfinding to this area.”
The objectives for the wayfinding signage that were outlined include: increasing economic impacts by moving visitors throughout the region, increasing overnight room stays, enhancing visitor satisfaction by providing easy navigation, creating repeat visitation by increasing awareness of destination assets, welcoming visitors to the region at gateway points, and elevating Virginia’s Blue Ridge as a destination.
“Tourism is big business for Virginia’s Blue Ridge, contributing over $892 million in direct travel expenditures in 2018,” Lee Wilhelm, president of the board for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, said. “Our goal is to reach $1 billion in 2021, and in order to do that programs such as wayfinding are critical. We are grateful to The Community Foundation for recognizing the economic benefits of supporting this project.”
The decision to hold the conference at Carvins Cove was reached because organizers felt that it perfectly represented all five localities that are included in the wayfinding project.