For cyclists in Virginia, spring means a return to road tours, trail rides, and bike commuting. To kick off the season, communities all over our region will be celebrating National Bike Month in May. Bike Month is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and was established in 1956. Then and now, Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate cycling, showcase its many benefits, and encourage people to try it or renew their childhood love of riding a bike!
Communities up and down the Shenandoah Valley are recognizing the value of biking facilities and biking culture as a draw for tourists, new residents and new businesses alike. Families, women, and children are increasingly joining more seasoned cycling enthusiasts with a steadily-growing system of greenways, paved trails, Safe Routes to Schools programs, and women's cycling groups.
The City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have been leaders in the Central Shenandoah Valley when it comes to celebrating Bike Month. A group of Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition volunteers begins planning the schedule of events almost one year in advance and their dedication shows in the extensive offerings: ice cream social rides, night rides with glowsticks, bike to work day, bike to school day, a costume bike ride and bike to worship weekend are only some of the events planned for this year. For a complete listing, visit: http://svbcoalition.org/bike-month/.
The CSPDC has received additional funding in the coming fiscal year to assist other communities with the launch of their own Bike Month events. Stay tuned in 2016 for a Bike to Work or Bike to School Event near you.
It was five decades ago that President Lyndon Johnson signed the enabling legislation that created the Appalachian Regional Commission, known as ARC. The ARC region encompasses parts of 12 states and all of West Virginia from New York to Mississippi along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. The agency's goal was to bring impoverished areas of Appalachia into the mainstream American economy.
In the 50 years since, the agency has distributed nearly $4 billion aimed at providing job opportunities, improving infrastructure, increasing educational opportunities, and enhancing residents' well-being. The Appalachian region has gone from 295 high-poverty counties in 1960 to 107 today. The region's high school graduation rates have increased to being almost on par with the Nation's, infant mortality has plummeted, availability of potable water has gone up, and more than 2,000 miles of new highways have been built and opened.
The other positive trends are that unemployment rates in the 13 states served by ARC are now comparable to the rest of the Nation. The poverty rate has fallen from about 31 percent in 1960 to about 17 percent. Despite its investments over the years, an ARC report issued in February showed significant development challenges remain, especially in areas of education, economic and physical well-being.
In our region, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, Buena Vista, and Lexington are part of the ARC region. With this designation, ARC planning grant funds, administered through the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, are available to these five localities. In addition to planning grant funds, ARC communities are eligible for construction funds for projects like the ones that were recently funded for the Highland Center Renovation Project in Monterey and the BARC Community Solar Project in Rockbridge County.
On May 20, 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will host a Brownfields Conference in Waynesboro. This conference will focus on three specific brownfield topics; a session led by the City of Waynesboro discussing revitalization and future planning in the cCty, a session titled "Life after Landfilling" discussing the reuse of landfills and historic ravine fills, and a session titled "Brownfields to Breweries, Putting Revitalization on Tap." The program focuses on ways that communities have turned brownfields into opportunities for advancing community goals, such as downtown revitalization, economic growth, and increased recreation. Contact Meade Anderson, Brownfields Program Manager, email@example.com; (804) 698-4179 for more information.
The CSPDC produces and distributes over 3,000 copies of Facts and Figures, a publication of regional and sub-regional economic and demographic data. Facts and Figures covers five separate areas:
- Central Shenandoah Valley Region
- Harrisonburg-Rockingham MSA
- Staunton-Waynesboro-Augusta MSA
- Lexington-Buena Vista-Rockbridge
Facts and Figures is distributed free of charge to the public through our local governments, economic development organizations, Chambers of Commerce, realtors associations and tourism centers. A digital version of each segment is accessible on the CSPDC's Regional Data Center. Facts and Figures is funded through a partnership planning grant from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.
Each year, the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) makes several awards to outstanding individuals that contribute to the well-being and success of their communities, their regions and the Commonwealth. One of the awards is Legislator of the Year. This year that award was bestowed on Delegate Steve Landes.
The award was presented to Delegate Landes at the CSPDC Commission meeting on April 20th by Bonnie Riedesel, CSPDC Executive Director and David Blount, Legislative Liaison with Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Delegate Landes praised the role that planning districts played across the state, remarking that the collaborative work of planning districts made a huge impact on the local and regional economies.
Delegate Landes represents the 25th District in the Virginia House of Delegates which includes portions of Albemarle, Augusta and Rockingham counties. He is Chairman of the House Education Committee and Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Delegate Landes has a strong record of achievement in a number of areas PDCs support, including reducing unnecessary government spending, spurring jobs creation and economic development throughout Virginia, advocating for small businesses and supporting farmers and ag-related businesses, especially in rural Virginia.
The Fields of Gold Agritourism Program recently received a Community Economic Development Award (CEDA) from the Virginia Economic Development Association. The CEDA award recognizes communities for outstanding economic and community development programs. The Fields of Gold Program was nominated by the Shenandoah Valley Partnership for its innovative approach to assisting the region's agricultural community by leveraging resources and capitalizing on the region's agricultural assets. Fields of Gold is a collaborative regional project that promotes agritourism in eight counties and five cities in the Shenandoah Valley: counties of Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah and the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. More than 180 farms and agritousim operators are part of the Fields of Gold Program.
On behalf of the Fields of Gold Steering Committee, Ms. Amanda Glover, Augusta County Economic Development Director, accepted the award at VEDA's Spring Conference in Norfolk. The award also qualifies the Fields of Gold Program for the Southern Economic Development Council Awards Program.
Around the Region, the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission's monthly newsletter is available HERE.