The Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia announced $250,000 in grants Wednesday for five localities in the Roanoke Valley as part of efforts to promote tourism and improve signs.
The counties of Botetourt, Franklin and Roanoke, along with the cities of Roanoke and Salem each will receive $50,000 with the condition each provides $25,000 in matching funds.
The funding supports a regional wayfinding project to better identify the location of regional attractions. Localities can use the funds to plan, buy and place new signs. The signs will look nearly identical but feature subtle differences to symbolize each locality. Roanoke’s signs will include a star, for example.
The grants come from the foundation’s unrestricted Community Catalyst Funds. “We are delighted to be in a position to provide significant support to bring regional wayfinding to this area,” said Michelle Eberly, the foundation’s director of grants and donor engagement.
The project started in August 2017, when Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge hired a design company to create a comprehensive wayfinding system. The project aims to help visitors and local residents navigate the region and showcase points of interest with visually consistent messaging.
“Wayfinding signage has long been needed in the region to assist the traveling public, especially in Franklin County where our diverse tourism assets are scattered over our 700 square miles,” Franklin County Interim Administrator Chris Whitlow said in a news release. “Providing visitors with a standard wayfinding system would seem to be a positive step” for the region to be known as a “Mountain Metro area,” he said.
Salem’s interim city manager, Jay Taliaferro, said the city appreciate’s the support of the Community Foundation.
“[Visit] Virginia Blue Ridge has been working very hard on this project for a couple of years, and this grant will not only keep things moving forward, but also allow us to get the project started much sooner than we could have otherwise,” Taliaferro said.
Each locality has committed to providing its share this fiscal year or next, said Catherine Fox, vice president of public affairs with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.