Invested members of the Upper Kanawha Valley community have used recent weeks to brainstorm ideas which would help establish a path for a brighter future for the area.
There were two in-person community engagement events in late October, followed by a virtual meeting on Nov. 12.
Follow-up informational sessions are tentatively set for Thursday, Dec. 10 (12 p.m. and 6 p.m.) to further formulate a plan of attack, according to an email from Amanda Workman-Scott, director of community engagement for the WV Community Development Hub. The purpose of the two virtual calls is to provide an introduction and overview of the Cultivate WV program to individuals who have not attended an in-person meeting or participated otherwise, said Workman-Scott.
The WV Community Development Hub's Cultivate WV, a statewide program, will provide $40,000 in funding which is expected to be available next spring for mini-grants for community members served by the UKV Strategic Initiatives Council. The UKV SIC is a combination of leadership from Montgomery and Smithers, and those community members or organizations which successfully apply for the mini-grants can receive up to $2,000 for their project.
"We have to get people enthused and engaged in the community," Smithers Mayor Dr. D. Anne Cavalier said earlier this year. Cavalier recalled conversations with Stephanie Tyree, executive director of the WV Community Development Hub, a statewide non-profit that helps strengthen community economic development. "I started talking to her about the challenges we face here," Cavalier said. In turn, Tyree filled her in on the opportunities available from Cultivate WV.
The WVCDH, with funding from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, indicated it would be willing to entertain providing funds for a two-municipality area, Cavalier said. Smithers and Montgomery are "two communities (that) have become one community with two municipalities," Cavalier said. "We were doing so much together, that I kind of feel funny stepping up to do a grant for Smithers and not include Montgomery.
"They really liked what Montgomery and Smithers were doing together."
Cultivate WV and the WV Community Development Fund representatives will choose the actual mini-grant recipients once the application process is complete. They also have ties to other agencies that may be able to supply additional financial support, Cavalier stressed.
While Smithers and Montgomery are the main focus, Cavalier said the outlying area which connects with those two cities can also possibly be included. "We want people to understand that if you've got a project that makes the community-wide area better, you're invited. We want you there."
Each maximum mini-grant will be for $2,000, but they can also be broken up into smaller increments.
Among the project ideas collected at the community engagement events in late October and the Nov. 12 virtual meeting were:
• An internet café in the Smithers Gateway Center to allow seniors to learn and use social media to stay connected to family and friends
• Signage on Rte. 60 (Midland Trail) at the east and west ends of the Smithers and Montgomery city limits showcasing the businesses and services available in the area. Project could be the construction of the rustic/aesthetic appropriate sign board and then businesses could pay for and have their own signs applied. Annual "membership" would include participating businesses keeping the signage looking fresh. Suggestion includes businesses, clubs and civic groups and churches.
• Support for planning the 2021 Smithers Plein Air Art Friday Night community activities
• Electronic sign board at the Smithers Gateway Center to announce area community and school activities.
• Beautification projects at the entry to the area from the east and west on Routes 60 and 61.
• First Friday Farmer's Market signage to put on Rte. 60 to direct customers
• A coffee and pastry shop in view of Rte. 60
• An AirBnB training and organizing session for interested area residents with property to rent to tourists
• Hire an area activities director to organize programs and activities at the gym/theater (Gateway) and parks (Smithers and Montgomery)
• New stage lights, sound system and curtain for the stage at Gateway Center
• Re-grade Tech Mountain Trail
• K-9 dog for the Smithers Police Department
• Street sweeper for Smithers and Montgomery
• Farmer's market pavilion and a community garden
• A park gazebo
• A marquee for GRID
• Murals for downtown area
• Create something at the old Montgomery Pool area
• Pet waste station
• Dog park
• Skateboard area
"If I say I want to do a community garden, there's a whole lot of detail behind that statement that has to be fleshed out," Cavalier said while exploring a for-instance scenario. "Where do you want it? Do you want it above-ground or in-ground? Who can participate in that? How will you distribute the produce from that? Can only the people who planted and weeded have any of the produce? How much is that going to cost, and where did you get your numbers?
"So, we're going to work with people."
Being mindful of Covid-19 situations at the time, virtual and in-person project team meetings will be held in January and February. Those meetings will be sector-specific, Workman-Scott said.
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