By Nolen Nychay
The Main Street Festival of Gallatin, Tenn., celebrates its 16th anniversary this October, keeping community traditions alive with local music and homemade food and craft vendors. Last year, the event drew more than 25,000 visitors looking to enjoy the rustic charm that the small communities of Tennessee pride themselves on.
The Greater Gallatin Inc. nonprofit organization hosts the annual festival to stimulate local businesses. The Tennessee Main Street Program, a statewide resource for communities revitalizing their downtowns, aims to preserve the authenticity of such small towns through their new “Ignite Downtown Economic Action” Initiative. “We’re excited about the potential of this new initiative to set realistic, economically prudent goals for Tennessee’s culturally unique towns,” says Todd Morgan of the Tennessee Main Street Program.
Launching this April, the IDEA Initiative will be a one-year program designed to help 27 Tennessee Main Street towns identify areas of economic opportunity. Economic development experts will visit each town, including mountain communities such as Bristol and Kingsport, to identify what most effectively attracts visitors and how that might be expanded. Afterwards, small business owners, city officials and local residents can gather for a public workshop to hear these expert opinions and offer their own suggestions for improvement. A final report with recommendations will be presented to each town hall to use for future projects.
By Emmalee Zupo
This past year marked the fourth most successful period for land conservation by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation — a state agency responsible for preserving open space and areas of cultural significance.
Nonprofit organizations such as New River Land Trust, based in Blacksburg, Va., have been helping local landowners place their properties into permanent conservation under the stewardship of VOF. The 56,697 acres of land protected from development in 2013 included more than 900 acres added to the state’s New River Trail State Park.*
Conserved properties also included historical landmarks such as the Shot Tower Historical State Park in Wythe County, Va., which protects one of the only remaining shot towers in the United States — and the remnants of what was once a major industry for the state. Shot towers are tall buildings that were used to create lead shot for firearms by dropping molten lead from a height of 150 feet into water, where the lead was then cooled.
John Eustis, executive director of the New River Land Trust, attributes the success of this past year to strong outreach efforts. “We couldn’t do our work without the support of our community,” Eustis says. “Thanks should always be given to those landowners and those community members who support conservation.”
*CORRECTION: The print version of this article incorrectly stated that 900 miles were added to the New River Trail scenic route. We regret the error.