When visitors come into Christiansburg, they sometimes find it tough to locate recreational facilities or even know they’re coming into the town. That problem is something local leaders want to change.
Tuesday night, the Town Council heard recommendations from town staff on how to make the locality more “visitor friendly.”
Melissa Powell, the town’s public information officer, said the overall plan is to create “consistent branding” throughout the town.
“Right now, we don’t have that,” she said.
The presentation included recommendations for gateway signs, area signs, banner program, a digital information sign and information kiosks.
Locations for each have been identified but, according to Powell, are not set in stone.
The gateway signs would be in at least eight locations to provide entrances into the town to be more visible. Area signs would be located in 13 locations and would include the titles of downtown, Cambria, midtown, uptown and historic districts.
The new idea of midtown and uptown would label areas near the town’s recreation center (midtown) and the New River Valley Mall (uptown).
The report said the town should also better locate banners on light poles to attract visitors into the area.
Monument signage would label up to 14 town parks and other facilities. Information kiosks were also recommended at three locations along the Huckleberry Trail.
One of the biggest recommendations was to forget the idea of digital signs at the recreation center and aquatics center. Instead one digital sign would be placed at town hall.
“The other locations (CAC and recreation center) were in a high traffic area where it would be difficult for motorists to read. Instead, we would like to place one in the front town hall that could include announcements for the aquatics center and recreation center,” Powell said.
The report also called for more signage for public parking especially in the downtown area.
The town has also been looking for a new motto, getting away from the “progressive town” idea. Powell said the staff is recommending “the place to be”.
“We can adapt that (the place to be) to many things like—the place to shop, the place to play, the place to swim, the place to live, etc. The possibilities are endless,” she said.
Currently the recreation department has labeled the community as the place to play. Councilman Brad Stipes called the overall signage plan a good starting point.
“We have talked about this several times over the past few years, and this is great,” Stipes said.
Fellow councilman Cord Hall said the change was 30 years overdue. Retired Councilman Jim Vanhoozier had asked for an upgrade to the current welcome signs months before his departure. He smiled while sitting in the audience Tuesday night. Vanhoozier retired last year and did not comment on the presentation after the meeting.
The next step in the branding effort is to seek input from a professional consulting service that would suggest designs for each of the signs. Powell said it would be nice to then unveil the designs during an open session to allow the public to comment on them.
Of course, there were concerns from the governmental body how the town would pay for this plan.
Powell said at this time that amount is not known. Council would have to approve any final action before any of it becomes a reality.
The town does have a tourism fund that is comprised of hotel taxes that could be used to help pay for the rebranding efforts.
Council also heard from Kevin Byrd with the New River Valley Regional Commission. He updated the group on several projects the commission has completed for the town and other localities in the New River Valley.
“We have done a survey on the number of people that use the Huckleberry Trail, worked on a grant application for the Chrisman Mill Rail Crossing and helped with a parks and recreation master plan,” he said.
The commission is also completing a broadband survey for the region along with several tourism projects.
Byrd said that tourism will take center stage in April when the Southwest Virginia Outdoor Expo will be held in Bisset Park in Radford. So far, 60 vendors have applied for the event. A similar one was held last year in Abingdon, and another has been held three straight years in Roanoke.
He pointed to another successful “ReNew the New” cleanup that was held this year along the New River near Radford. Over 460 volunteers collected four tons of trash ranging from tires, cans and even a car. Over the past few years, the “ReNew the New” has been held on the Giles County section of the New River.
“We asked the Giles County group if we could build upon their effort and expand it to other areas of the river, and it was very successful,” he said. “Close to 10 miles were cleared during the day.”
Byrd also told council it looks like state and federal funding for the next phase in passenger rail service to the area will be available in 2019.
“We have been in contact with state representatives and hope that might be a year earlier in 2018,” he said.
Initially, a passenger rail committee had hoped service could come to the NRV by 2020. A similar service is slated to come to Roanoke early next year.
Mayor Michael Barber also unveiled his recommendation for a new town flag. Council members were open to the idea and asked the mayor to proceed with plans for enough flags that would fly at all town facilities. Additionally, Barber hopes the flag can be included in the police department’s flag corps.
Also, almost a dozen new town employees were introduced to council. Hall praised the measure and hopes new staff members can continue to come to meetings and be introduced.