1928 - Alderson High School - 1968
ALDERSON MAIN STREET - NEWS RELEASE P.O. Box 117, Alderson, WV  24910 DATE January 2, 2018 Contact Alderson Main Street Improving The Community One Project At A Time
Alderson's Fortunes Ebb And Flow With The River Tina Alvey REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER
Sometime   in   the   next   few   weeks,   Alderson’s   Strategic   Riverfront   Enhancement   Plan   (SREP)   will   be unveiled,   culminating   more   than   a   year   of   work   and   laying   out   a   map   for   a   brighter   future   for   the   tiny   town that straddles the Greenbrier/Monroe county line. Many   of   the   ideas   expected   to   be   laid   out   in   the   SREP   originated   in   what Alderson   Main   Street   President Jim Russell calls a “chat and chew” group that has been mulling the town’s path forward for a long while. “The   idea   of   developing   a   strategic   plan   had   been   thrown   around   for   some   time,”   Russell   told   The Register-Herald in a Friday interview. He   said   the   Alderson   Artisans   Gallery   —   a   home   for   local   art   exhibitions   and   sales   —   came   out   of   those same discussions. “We asked, ‘What’s next?’” he said. Acknowledging   that   Alderson   has   relatively   few   assets   with   which   to   boost   its   economy,   Russell   said   the “beautiful Greenbrier River” was the obvious choice as a focal point around which to begin to build a plan. Helping   to   move   the   “chat   and   chew”   discussions   into   the   public   eye   was   the   West   Virginia   Community Development   Hub’s   IAC   (Innovation   Acceleration   Strategies)   program.   The   IAC,   Russell   noted,   offered five   West   Virginia   communities   —   including   Alderson   —   the   chance   to   be   on   the   cutting   edge   of   much- needed economic diversification in the state. Due   to   the   2016   flood,   the   launch   of Alderson’s   project   was   delayed   for   several   months,   but   in   September of   last   year,   a   group   under   the   leadership   of   the   Main   Street   organization   formed   five   subject   matter teams   to   analyze   different   facets   of   the   local   community.   The   Recreation   and   Quality   of   Life   team   wound up   taking   the   lead   role   for   Alderson   in   an   IAC   competition,   winning   the   $5,000   prize   for   the   Strategic Riverfront Enhancement Plan. On   the   basis   of   having   won   that   seed   money,   Alderson   Main   Street   applied   for   a   Flex   E   grant   from   the state Development Office, obtaining another $8,500 for planning. Russell   said   the   group   decided   to   turn   to   the   experts   to   develop   a   formal   plan   for   the   project,   hiring Downstream Strategies for the job with the Flex E grant proceeds. Recognizing   the   value   of   having   tangible   results   from   the   project   as   soon   as   possible   to   keep   community support   flowing,   the   group   took   the   $5,000   prize   money   from   the   Hub,   combined   it   with   $10,000   from   the town,   and   constructed   two   concrete   pads   on   the   Greenbrier   County   side   of   the   river.   One   of   those   pads   is at   street   level,   and   the   other   is   just   above   the   water   level.   Rails   for   the   steps   that   connect   the   two   decks are the next part of the project, Russell said, noting it is currently on hold due to the cold weather. In   formulating   the   SREP,   the   Main   Street-directed   group   understood   that   community   involvement   was   key, he noted. “We knew it had to be the community’s project for it to have any transformational value,” he said. To   encourage   that   involvement,   the   group   held   three   public   meetings   to   present   the   bones   of   the   SREP and   seek   the   community’s   input.   A   “conceptual   draft”   of   the   plan   was   released   a   few   months   ago,   and Downstream   Strategies   —   a   consulting   firm   with   an   office   in   Alderson   —   has   continued   to   flesh   out   the plan in anticipation of presenting it to Alderson Town Council for adoption. At   the   heart   of   the   SREP,   Russell   said,   are   the   goals   of   opening   up   the   river   —   making   it   more   visible   and usable   to   visitors   and   residents   —   and   stabilizing   the   riverbank,   which   has   seen   damaging   erosion   over the years. Although   Russell   said   it   might   not   make   the   cut   for   the   initial   phases   of   the   SREP,   he   would   also   like   to see   better   access   provided   on   the   Monroe   County   side   of   the   river   (aka   “Historic   Alderson”),   facilitating links   to   some   of   the   businesses   in   the   shopping   district.   He   said   he   envisions   something   along   the   lines   of a   canoe   and   kayak   “put-in”   dock   that   would   allow   visitors   to   paddle   the   river   into   Alderson   and   walk   over to a local sandwich shop or simply stroll the town. An   area   native   who   left   shortly   after   graduating   from   Alderson   High   School   only   to   return   49   years   later, Russell   has   picked   up   the   torch   once   more   for   his   hometown,   bringing   great   enthusiasm   to   the   task   at hand. “We have a plan to showcase what we’ve done,” he said. One   of   those   future   showcase   events   hinges   on   the   organization   that   started   the   ball   rolling.   Russell   said he    understands    the    West    Virginia    Community    Development    Hub    plans    to    conduct    a    community symposium   in   Lewisburg   in   the   spring,   and   that   his   town   will   have   a   role   to   play   in   that   event   —   perhaps serving    a    meal    to    symposium    participants    on    Alderson’s    scenic    pedestrian    bridge,    spanning    the Greenbrier River. “We need to make the most of what we have,” Russell said. • • • For additional information about Alderson Main Street, visit www.min7th.com/ams/  or check out the organization’s Facebook  page. Photos: By Brad Davis / REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER
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Contact:  Margaret Hambrick  304-646-2439        
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