On August 31 the historic community of North Tazewell, Virginia, gathered for a pivotal community listening session hosted by Appalachian Voices in partnership with local nonprofits Tazewell Today, the Clinch River Valley Initiative, Each One Teach 1, and the Town of Tazewell and The Cumberland Plateau Planning District.
This session focused on pursuing a community block planning grant as a catalyst for revitalization of the East Riverside Drive area, once a thriving center of commerce. The decline of coal has left its mark on Tazewell, particularly evident in the transformation of the Clinch Valley Rail Line that used to transport vast quantities of coal from the coalfields each day. This decline has left North Tazewell blighted by derelict warehouses and empty structures. Community members and the aforementioned nonprofits initiated pursuit of the Community Development Block Planning Grant. Twenty-four dedicated community stakeholders joined the listening session, sharing their thoughts on what they cherish about their community and the improvements they envision. As we delve into the insights from this session, it’s clear that North Tazewell is poised for an exciting transformation.
The charms of North Tazewell
North Tazewell, nestled along the banks of the picturesque Clinch River, is a community rich in history and character. Once its own political jurisdiction, the North Tazewell community is now an incorporated part of the Town of Tazewell. Residents expressed their deep affection for their community during the listening session, highlighting several assets that make the North Tazewell community truly special:
- Clinch River: The scenic Clinch River, a defining natural feature, remains a cherished asset, offering recreational opportunities, beautiful views and a connection to the region’s natural beauty.
- Walkability: The walkable nature of the neighborhood fosters a sense of community and encourages outdoor activities. Residents love the ability to stroll through their historic town with ease.
- Renovated train station and visitors center: The recent renovation of the train station and visitors center has breathed new life into the area, preserving its historical significance while providing a welcoming hub for tourists and locals alike.
- Close-knit community: The strong sense of community in North Tazewell was evident during the session. Residents emphasized the value of knowing their neighbors and working together to preserve their community’s unique character.
- Community pride: North Tazewell residents take immense pride in their community’s history and heritage. Historic homes, each with its own story, are lovingly maintained and cherished as part of the community’s legacy.
- Industrial history: The industrial history of the area, with its factories and mills, is a point of pride for residents. They see potential in preserving and repurposing these historical sites. Susan Reeves, local historian and chair of the Tazewell Historic Review Board, spoke about the process of a historic designation of the commercial and residential areas of Riverside Drive.
- Safe environment: Residents appreciate the safety of their community, characterized by low traffic and a tight-knit sense of security. The convenience of the local post office is another bonus.
While North Tazewell’s residents hold their community in high regard, they also recognize the need for progress and development. During the listening session, several key ideas and desires emerged:
- New businesses and restaurants: Residents expressed a strong desire for new businesses and dining establishments in the East Riverside Drive area. This would not only create economic opportunities but also enhance the quality of life for residents.
- Addressing blight: The community is eager to address vacant and blighted buildings in the area. Revitalizing these spaces would breathe new life into North Tazewell while preserving its historic charm.
- Community center: The concept of a central community center was well-received. Such a space could serve as a hub for social, educational, and recreational activities, fostering even stronger community bonds.
- River arts district: Leveraging the scenic Clinch River, residents are interested in establishing a river arts district. This would showcase local culture and artistic endeavors, attracting visitors and enhancing community identity.
- Utilizing the Clinch River: Ideas for improving access to and recreational use of the Clinch River, including parks, walking trails and water-based activities, were met with enthusiasm.
- Housing options: As the community grows, residents stressed the importance of diverse and affordable housing options to accommodate newcomers and ensure the community’s sustainability.
- Community events: Residents look forward to more community events and festivals, providing opportunities for socializing and celebrating their unique heritage.
The community listening session illuminated a shared vision for the future that combines the community’s rich history with modern development. North Tazewell’s residents are ready to roll up their sleeves and work towards a revitalized East Riverside Drive area that honors the past while embracing the future.
With their love for the community as a driving force, North Tazewell is poised to become an even more vibrant and thriving place to live and visit, and a testament to the power of community engagement and vision. Seeing numerous community organizations collaboratively working towards revitalizing North Tazewell was truly inspiring. The project management team is aiming for an October 15 submittal date for the Community Block Planning Grant application.