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New look envisioned for Clarksville pocket park

SoVaNow.com / October 23, 2013


The Clarksville pocket park will soon have a new look, thanks to the town’s Industrial Development Authority.

“For too long [the park] has been a burr in everybody’s saddle,” said IDA board member Charlie Simmons at a recent meeting of Clarksville Town Council. Since the IDA had funds available, the group decided to purchase the property and clean it up.

An architect’s drawing for the revamped pocket park — located at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Fourth Street — envisions a broad expanse of grass, with a gazebo in one corner and a low, decorative rock wall bounding the park next to the sidewalk. “We wanted to keep it simple, to create an area that did not need a lot of maintenance, because we [the IDA] plan on turning this over to the town to maintain,” Simmons explained.

To date, the IDA spent $45,000 to purchase and clean the property — which included the removal of long buried, large chunks of concrete, left over from the days when the lot held a service station.

Looking forward, the Clarksville IDA will seek a partner willing to help fund the cost of construction at the park.

Simmons said discussions are also ongoing with Occoneechee State Park officials, the Governor’s Office, state Sen. Frank Ruff and others to build a splash park inside Occoneechee. An oft-noted shortcoming “is the lack of a place to swim near Clarksville,” Simmons explained.

The issue was first raised several years ago when the town was negotiating with Occoneechee and state officials to build a golf course and conference center on land owned by the IDA and located a few acres inside the park.

“Now there are cabins, trails and campgrounds,” Simmons said, but still no “water contact area” — a phrase used by the consultants that most people would know as a swimming pool, beach or splash park. “Frank [Senator Ruff] has made known to the Governor that this is one of our funding priorities, and Andy [Andy Hagy, the Richmond based consultant hired by the IDA] is in talks with the parks people” in hopes of getting both approval and funding to build the splash park.

Hagy, who was present during Simmons’ presentation, said that a similar facility already exists at a Virginia park. However, neither he nor Simmons were willing to predict when or if Occoneechee would get a splash park.

Many area residents have commented on the slowdown of work at the former Burlington Industries site. Simmons said he understood the reason behind the slowdown to be that the owner of the site, M&R Acquisitions, has had to complete a time-sensitive job in Tennessee. Hagy, who has kept in touch with Erwin Raughley of M&R Acquisitions, said Raughley has promised to return soon to finish the cleanup and overhaul of the shuttered Burlington plant.

Based on these representations, Simmons said he believed the site should be ready for development within the next few months. “It would be nice,” Simmons added, “if someone would use all that water to create a manufacturing site, bringing jobs that people around here can use.”

He and Sheila Cuykendall, Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce Director, unveiled a new website, funded by the IDA and Virginia Tobacco Commission and managed by the Chamber. Hagy and Simmons envision the website, http://www.virginiaslakeregion.com, as a good first step to promoting an area that is “under-marketed” and “like nothing else in the state” to both tourists and businesses. According to Simmons, the IDA, either alone or in conjunction with Chase City or the county, holds enough real estate to fill the needs of any business moving into the area.

The website shows a slice of life and activities and events available to people coming to the lake’s region, a matter of great interest to families moving to Southside Virginia.

The properties that the IDA has available — which will suit most any business, including high tech companies looking for large tracts of land — are marketed already through other sources. So, too, is the area’s “first class connectivity” which Simmons called “none better in the world,” and due to “the vision of the Tobacco Commission.” Several years ago, the Virginia Tobacco Commission funded a broadband Internet network across Southside and Southwest Virginia.



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