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Tourism offers sign of comeback / April 14, 2021

Visitors continue to flock to Mecklenburg County despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to county tourism coordinator Tina Morgan. She updated the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors on the state of tourism during the monthly board meeting in Boydton on Monday.

According to Morgan, hotel bookings in Mecklenburg are up 4.2 percent and Buggs Island Lake was recently named the no. 1 crappie fishing lake by Fishing magazine.

The county’s new tourism website — with its road trip proposals, blogs, featured videos, and promotion of outdoor activities — is drawing much attention, she said.

Morgan said there have been a few hiccups in what could otherwise be described as a growing tourism sector across Virginia. Park visitations were down by about 500,000 people in 2020 throughout Virginia, including in Mecklenburg County. Still, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that more than 3.5 million people took advantage of its park facilities last year.

“That’s not bad,” Morgan said, noting that USACE parks were shuttered for at least two months during the height of the pandemic.

Also, she felt that much of the uptick in local hotel traffic had more to do with workers at the county’s solar farm projects booking rooms than with tourists visiting.

With new restaurants opening and a return of popular summer events, Morgan said she anticipates a surge in the number of people visiting Mecklenburg County in 2021.

One local attraction that has drawn significant attention of late is the Virginia Civil Rights in Education Trail. Morgan said interest in the self-guided tour, which includes three stops in Mecklenburg County, spiked in 2020 after the General Assembly passed a joint resolution commending Virginia Crossroads — the entity with oversight of the trail — for creating an attraction of importance and historical significance.

The Civil Rights in Education Trail includes 53 sites across Southside Virginia that are considered places of interest in the struggle for educational equality fought by African Americans, Native Americans and women.

With more people getting vaccinated, Morgan said towns in Mecklenburg County are hoping to restart popular outdoor events. The first took place on Saturday as Clarksville hosted its annual wine festival after the event was cancelled last year. Morgan said the Clarksville Wine Festival was a success both in terms of the size of the crowd and the public’s adherence to COVID-19 regulations — social distancing, mask wearing and sanitation.

Later this summer, Morgan said South Hill will hold its Sunset Sounds summer concert series, Boydton is bringing back its bluegrass concerts, Chase City’s Party at the Pavilion is being planned, and Clarksville will see a return of the Lake Life Live Summer Concert series and the Virginia Lake Festival.

Later this fall, Morgan said the American Bass Anglers Tournament will take place on Buggs Island Lake. She said this is the first time this national competition will be held in the area and she expects there will be major media coverage.

The tournament is a national championship that draws upwards of 250 anglers each year. It is scheduled to take place Oct. 17-22. The weigh-in will be held at Occoneechee State Park near Clarksville.

Morgan said while she does not generally include a “what’s new” component in her presentations to the board, she felt there were significant changes coming to the towns that needed to be highlighted. They include:

» A new owner who is renovating and updating Clarksville’s two hotels, the former Magnuson, now known as Buggs Island Inn, and the Lake Motel.

» A renovated McDonald’s in Clarksville

» The new Bridgewater restaurant in Clarksville, at the site of the former Lamplighter.

» Two new restaurants in Chase City, Bondurant’s Blackwater Station and the soon-to-open Bear Claw.

» The upcoming move of the county’s only local craft brewery, Buggs Island Brewing Company, to its new waterfront building in Clarksville.

Supervisor Tom Tanner added another new venue. He said the former Blue Heron Deli in La Crosse is open under new management. They advertise as the “home of the monster sub,” according to Tanner.

Morgan took a bow for a program begun in Mecklenburg County that is being copied nationally. At the start of the pandemic, representatives from the three local Chambers of Commerce — Tina Wood of Chase City, Sheila Cuykendall of Clarksville and Shannon Lambert of South Hill — worked with Morgan to implement a gift card match program using CARES Act money. The goal was to infuse capital into local businesses to keep them afloat during the pandemic. The program generated more than $1 million in revenue for participating businesses locally and more than $3.9 million for shops in other communities that picked up the program in their areas.

In other business, supervisors approved a request to rezone two parcels of land in Bracey from Industrial to B-1. The property located on Highway 903 in Bracey across from Exit Realty was previously used as a staging site for the Inter-Metro Freight company.

The company no longer has use for the property and wants it rezoned to be consistent with existing zoning along that stretch of Highway 903.

Supervisors adopted a resolution in recognition of April 11-17 being National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. The resolution was presented to Ben Duncan, director of Mecklenburg County’s E911 Communications Center and Tajean Dixon and Erin Crandell, two of the members of the E911 staff. Duncan said in the past year the call center handled 60,000 calls, of which 20,000 were emergencies.

Supervisors approved a contract with R.J. Smith Construction for the demolition of the former Buckhorn Elementary School. Smith provided the low bid for the project, coming in at $93,475.

County Administrator Wayne Carter announced that county offices would again open to the public effective April 19.

During board member comments, Brankley expressed dissatisfaction with the increase in litter he’s seeing on roads in Mecklenburg County. He asked that everyone “take more pride” in their community and to stop littering.

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