Elkton Receives Funding for Downtown Park Tree Canopy and Outdoor Recreation Improvements

The Town of Elkton was awarded a $155,000 grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation for Phase II of the Downtown Marketplace project to improve greenspace. The funding focuses on improving downtown greenspace and tree canopy cover and providing outdoor recreation and engagement amenities such as pathways, sitting areas, a sensory play area, a pollinator garden, and a native tree identification path.

The CSPDC provided application assistance through the PDC’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) program, which facilitates the implementation of tree planting and other best practices that enhance water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Virginia Breeze Bus Expands

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) will be expanding the Virginia Breeze bus lines with a new east-west route connecting Harrisonburg and Virginia Beach in 2025. The Tidewater Current will be the fifth Virginia Breeze route launched by DRPT, which has seen great success with its other four routes that operate north-south bi-directional service 365 days a year. The Virginia Breeze links rural and urban communities across the Commonwealth.

The Tidewater Current will include potential stops in Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, New Kent, Williamsburg, Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. A one-way ride on the Tidewater Current is estimated to take less than seven hours, and ticket prices will be determined closer to the launch date.

Other Virginia Breeze routes include the Valley Flyer, Blacksburg to Washington, D.C.; the Capital Connector, Martinsville to Washington, D.C.; the Piedmont Express, Danville to Washington, D.C.; and the Highlands Rhythm, Bristol to Washington, D.C. For additional information on the Virginia Breeze, visit www.virginiabreeze.org.

Central Shenandoah Hazard Mitigation Plan (CSHMP) Steering Committee Meeting Scheduled

Over the past several weeks, CSPDC staff coordinated with local governments, regional authorities and service organizations, and other community stakeholders to identify and appoint personnel to the CSHMP Steering Committee. The Steering Committee members will provide their local knowledge to inform the plan’s development by prioritizing which threats and hazards to focus on, reviewing local mitigation strategies that address identified risks, encouraging public input (future survey), and facilitating the adoption of the FEMA-approved CSHMP by the 21 local jurisdictions served by the CSPDC.

The CSHMP identifies threats, hazards, and vulnerabilities within the CSPDC region. It also communicates locally developed mitigation strategies geared to make communities more resilient. Furthermore, having a FEMA-approved and locally adopted Hazard Mitigation Plan allows the area’s jurisdictions to apply for hazard mitigation grant funds.

The first meeting will be held Tuesday, July 16, 2024 from 10 AM to 12 PM at the Augusta Community Care building (conference rooms 1-3 on first floor) located at 64 Sports Medicine Drive in Fishersville. Additional meetings are planned for October 2024 and March 2025. Contact Senior Planner Steve Bolster at steve@cspdc.org or (540) 885-5174 ext. 112 if seeking additional information.


Sunset Park Opens in Waynesboro

On June 4, 2024, Waynesboro celebrated the grand opening of Sunset Park, a 107-acre property offering two overlooks, a picnic shelter, restroom facilities, and extensive trails. Within its inaugural week, the park attracted over 4,000 vehicles.

“It’s my favorite place…,” said Jeff, a life-long resident of Waynesboro. “I’ve come here almost every day.”

A notable feature of the park is its transformation from a former landfill, with 17 acres capped in 2003. Nearly a decade after its closure, discussions began on converting the site into a park. The Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech helped create a concept plan in 2017.

In 2022, City Council appropriated about $2.5 million toward Sunset Park. The majority of these funds came from State and Local Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), supplemented by a Recreation Access Grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Construction commenced in 2023.

Ongoing enhancements to the park include expansions to its trail network. The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) recently released a final trail plan featuring 4 miles of natural surface singletrack trails at Sunset Park. This plan was made possible through a Trails Accelerator Grant (TAG) in collaboration with the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

SAWMPO Begins Long Range Plan, Releasing Survey in August

The Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAWMPO) began updating the region’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) in May 2024. The plan evaluates the region’s future transportation needs over a 25-year period and focuses on identifying improvements that address safety and congestion issues for all modes of transportation.

The SAWMPO updates the plan every five years, and the process includes many opportunities for public input. Diverse and regionally representative public input is critical for developing effective transportation plans. Phase One of the 2050 LRTP update will open for public input in August 2024. It will focus on the community vision for the future of transportation in the SAWMPO region. The public and interested stakeholders can subscribe to LRTP updates at this link. 

Bath County Child Care Facility Opens

On May 31, Bath County cut the ribbon for a new licensed childcare facility. The ribbon cutting ceremony marks the culmination of a multi-year effort to establish a licensed childcare facility. Before using ARPA funds to construct the facility, Bath County was the only county in Virginia without a licensed childcare operator. The Highland Children’s House will operate the newly constructed facility. Highland Children’s House also provides childcare at the Highland Center in Monterey. The new building is located in Warm Springs, in front of Valley Elementary School.

CSPDC Assists Localities with Applications for $6.4 Million in Funding

The CSPDC assisted our localities to submit over $6.4 million of funding applications in the last month.

Sponsoring Partnerships & Revitalizing Communities (SPARC)

Total: $3,000,000

The CSPDC applied for a new allocation of funds through Virginia Housing’s SPARC Program, which offers reduced-rate funding with a 1% adjustment to interest rates below Virginia Housing’s prevailing home loan rates. Last year, CSPDC secured $1.7 million through SPARC and supported eight clients in the Shenandoah Valley purchase homes. This year, the CSPDC aims to nearly double the number of future first-time homeowners it can support.

Goshen Community Service Facility Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

Total: $1,250,000

The Town of Goshen applied for $1.25 million CDBG Community Improvement Grant to build a multi-purpose community service facility in Goshen. The proposed facility would provide health care, a food pantry, senior services, and many needed community services under one roof.

 Stillwater Revitalization Project – Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF)

Total: $1,000,000

In June, the CSPDC helped prepare an IRF application to transform the former Stillwater Worsted Mills textile plant building in Goshen, Rockbridge County. The project aims to secure $1 million in IRF funds to rejuvenate the structure, converting it into a multi-use facility shared between the Virginia Mechanical Preservation Society and North Fork, a manufacturer of wood-based products. If the application is successful, the revitalized building will house a museum, a preservation workshop, and a forest-to-finish wood manufacturing factory, focusing on the construction of log cabin tiny homes.

Afton Mountain Revitalization – CDBG Planning Grant

Total: $100,000

The CSPDC assisted Augusta County in applying for a $100,000 CDBG Planning Grant to develop a master plan for the Afton Mountain-Rockfish Gap site. If successful, the grant will enable the identification of the optimal mix of amenities and business opportunities for this unique site and would be a key step towards the site’s redevelopment.

Northern Highlands 4-County Communications Network Project ARC ARISE Planning Grant

Total: $144,600

CSPDC staff supported a two-state, four-county effort, involving Bath (VA), Highland (VA), Pocahontas (WV), and Pendleton (WV) counties, to pursue an ARC ARISE (Appalachian Regional Commission Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies) planning grant. Together the partners crafted a Concept Paper to construct a multi-phase, 21st Century communication infrastructure network which is expected to drive regional economic development and support public safety operations along the VA/WV border. If ARC approves the Concept Paper, the working group will be invited to complete the full ARC ARISE application later this year.

Wilson Workforce Development Center – Community Development Block Grant

Total: $950,000

The CSPDC continues to support the City of Buena Vista’s efforts to apply for grant funding to source the Mountain Gateway Community College’s (MGCC) Wilson Workforce Development Center completion. In June 2024, Buena Vista applied for a $950,000 Community Development Block Grant to source the purchase of equipment needed by MGCC faculty to instruct students on courses for in-demand jobs such as HVAC, building trades, electrical, plumbing, industrial technology, precision machining, welding, diesel mechanics, and CDLs. Buena Vista staff wrote the application on behalf of MGCC, with technical assistance from the CSPDC.

CSPDC Recognizes Commissioner Rhonda Cooper

In 2018, the CSPDC welcomed Ms. Rhonda Cooper as a non-elected Rockingham County representative to the Board of Commissioners. She has been a valued member of the Board and its Executive Committee, contributing significantly to the CSPDC’s ability to serve the region. At the end of July, Ms. Cooper plans to retire.  We wish her well in retirement; she will be greatly missed!

Ms. Cooper has been an integral planning partner of the CSPDC for more than three decades. Since joining Rockingham County in 1993, Ms. Cooper has been deeply involved in county and regional collaboration, her most recent role being Director of Community Development. Ms. Cooper holds a bachelor’s degree in planning and a master’s in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia.  She even worked for a summer at the CSPDC!

In 1997, Ms. Cooper joined the Executive Committee of the Rural Planning Caucus of Virginia (RPCVA), an organization dedicated to identifying, publicizing, and addressing the unique planning needs of small towns and rural areas. She served three terms as Chairperson of RPCVA from 2006 to 2008.

Following the 2000 Census, the population density of the area led to Harrisonburg and parts of Rockingham County being classified as “metropolitan.” This necessitated the formation of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO) for transportation projects and regional collaboration, organized by the CSPDC. Ms. Cooper became a member in 2003, representing Rockingham County, and has served ever since, providing technical and planning expertise to the organization.

Please join us in thanking Ms. Cooper for her service to the Commission, and wish her a wonderful and much-deserved retirement!