POUND — Town Council Tuesday formally threw support to an effort initiated by Appalshop to secure $150,000 in funding through a creative place-making grants program.
The work is being spearheaded by Marley Green, a Pound resident who serves on the town's Economic Development Authority and is a community development worker at Appalshop, the nationally-known media, arts and education non-profit based in Whitesburg, Ky.
The town commits to serve as the primary partner with Appalshop for the Tracks, Trails and Tales of the Pound proposal under the "Our Town" Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.
"Our Town" is aimed at systemic change and requires a partnership between a local government entity and a nonprofit organization, one of which must be a cultural organization. Appalshop is the lead applicant.
The NEA believes the arts are important on their own but, beyond that, also believes they support economic development, Green told council when he first pitched an "Our Town" idea last summer. He noted then that Pound is competitive for the grant and Appalshop has experience with it, having completed a similar endeavor over the mountain in Jenkins, Ky.
Tuesday night, Green sought support of the undertaking. Endorsement letters were ready and promptly approved, with little discussion.
The endorsement letter spoke to Pound's history and particularly its railroad connection.
"At one time a narrow gauge railroad sent spurs up and down every fork and hollow, harvesting the lush timbers that made up the rich Pound River country that Captain Christopher Gist and his companion viewed from the top of Pound Gap that morning of April 1, 1751," it read. "In 1948, Clinchfield Coal Corporation changed the economy from farming and small lumber operations to a bustling coal mining industry."
The letter notes Pound did not have a downtown business district until about 1920.
"With the recent slowdown of the economy, especially the mining industry, Pound has seen our town lose its high school and many other businesses," says the letter, noting how its economic development authority and planning commission "are helping us turn toward increasing tourism, encouraging appreciation for traditional art forms, and further developing the rich cultural resources in the area.
"We firmly believe there is great potential for a substantial increase in the number of visitors coming to enjoy the beauty of the mountains of Southwest Virginia and to also experience the various works of art by local artisans, particularly offerings that will arise from our project Tracks, Trails, and Tales of the Pound."
The letter notes that Appalshop "is recognized throughout the country for its programming and project support that fosters creative expression here in the mountains." The town encourages NEA "to support the work being proposed as it will benefit the public, the artisans, the local economy, and Pound as a whole."
Mayor and interim Town Manager George Dean told council Tuesday the cost to the town if the grant application is successful would be about $8,000, which could come in both cash and in-kind services.
Debbi Hale, who represents Pound on the Wise County Tourism Committee, briefed council on a variety of ongoing efforts connected to tourism, recreation, Pound River, trails and the outdoors.
Upcoming is the Red Fox Storytelling Festival on Oct. 26. In addition to gathering at Killing Rock, on the Red Fox Trail, she said there's discussion of having some part of the event downtown at the new headquarters of the Historical Society of The Pound.
In May, they held the Pine Mountain Naturalist Rally out around the trail, sponsored primarily by the High Knob Master Naturalists and a complement to the fall rally they host on High Knob.
Hale said she had a recent conversation with Spearhead Trails Director Shawn Lindsey, who advised that a proposed bicycle pump track and river put-in near the Pound Baptist Church was still probably a year away. Councilman Danny Stanley said they had encountered "environmental issues."
Spearhead also is working with the U.S. Forest Service on some sewer work at the Cane Patch campground, Hale said, and she inquired about the possibility of getting water and sewer service to more campsites. The forest service says Cane Patch is the most used campground on the entire Clinch District, she noted.
Hale told council of efforts to get Pound River designated as part of the Virginia Scenic River system, noting that two teams of evaluators have floated the river. She said they also are working to do riverbank cleanup "to make it more attractive for people who may want to float."
Hale said she's found an ideal river put-in spot on Old Mill Village Road and is in the process of determining who owns the property. There's potential for a trail that could reach all the way down to the Low Water Bridge, she said.