14 Projects Earn Grants Through Roanoke Outside Initiative

ROANOKE, VA (March 15, 2021) – Project Outside is distributing $100,000 in grant funding for projects throughout the Roanoke Region thanks to donations from corporate partners and individuals.

Project Outside funded 14 projects from 23 applications including greenway repairs for section damaged by flooding, machines for trail work, installing a new river access ramp, tools for volunteer trail workers, development of an outdoor program for underserved youth, disc golf course improvements, and support for outdoor businesses impacted by the pandemic. Grant applications totaled more than $300,000 in funding requests.

“The outdoors is integral to region’s narrative and economic development strategy,” said Pete Eshelman, director of Roanoke Outside Foundation. “The goal of Project Outside is to invest in our community’s competitive advantage, the outdoors. Grants will be used to fund needed projects that will make an immediate impact in the community.”

Project Outside, which launched in August, is a first of its kind campaign will fund the maintenance and development of outdoor assets and support outdoor-related businesses. The Roanoke Outside Foundation will administer the grants that break down into three categories: Maintenance, new infrastructure, and organization support.

“Receiving the Project Outside Grant to purchase trail tools means that Franklin County will capitalize on volunteer support,” said Paul Chapman, Franklin County Director of Parks and Recreation. “These funds will be used to purchase quality tools that will enable volunteers to maintain and improve Franklin County’s public trails. This grant will build community pride and a sense of ownership in our local trails.”

Grant recipients evaluated by the Roanoke Outside Foundation Advisory Council, which used a blind scorecard to allocate available funds to projects that demonstrated the highest and most immediate need and ability to be completed in a timely manner.

“It is crucial to have a safe and usable park that the community can take pride in. In order to invest in our youth in Northwest and give them the resources they need for success, we must invest in their environment, and that means restoring and updating the park at Villa Heights,” said Xavier Duckett of the Humble Hustle Company, which received a grant for Project PARK. “This grant will allow us to provide more community events as well as promote the use of green space in the inner city of NW Roanoke.”

Project Outside grant recipients:

  • Blue Ridge Off-Road Cyclists: $20,000 to purchase a walk-behind skid steer machine to be used on regional trail projects.
  • Roanoke County: $15,000 to match other funds and install a new Roanoke River access ramp at Wayside Park.
  • City of Roanoke: $15,000 to aid in repairs to the Roanoke River Greenway in Southeast between 13th Street and Piedmont Park.
  • Alleghany County Parks and Recreation: $9,744 to purchase a maintenance vehicle for the 14.4-mile-long, crushed gravel Jackson River Scenic Trail.
  • Humble Hustle: $9,000 for Project PARK (Peaceful Areas of Recreation for Kids), an initiative to improve Villa Heights Recreation Center.
  • Franklin County Parks and Recreation: $7,150 to build a new beginner/intermediate mountain bike flow trail in Waid Park.
  • Alleghany Highlands Trail Club: $5,750 to rehabilitate the 11-mile-long Fore Mountain Trail which is a key trail connector between Clifton Forge and Covington.
  • Catawba Sustainability Center: $4,200 for improvements to a trail being built that connects the center with the Appalachian Trail. This will provide an alternative parking location for people accessing the popular McAfee Knob.
  • Franklin County Parks and Recreation: $3,300 to purchase trail building and repair tools for a growing network of volunteers.
  • Total Action for Progress: $2,880 to start Project Discovery, an outdoor club to connect underserved youth with the outdoors.
  • River Rock Climbing: $2,120 to offset losses incurred by the pandemic. During their required shutdown they still paid employees.
  • Pathfinders for Greenways: $2,000 to purchase tools needed for trail building and maintenance.
  • Ride CFVA: $1,000 for marketing the startup business catering to mountain bike tourism in the region.
  • The Roanoke Disc Golf Club: $2,850 to improve the Explore Park’s Mayflower Disc Golf Course.

“As an organization that puts community first, we are proud to support Project Outside,” said Steve Hildebrand with Freedom First. “The Roanoke Region is a beloved destination and home for outdoor enthusiasts, so we recognize that it is important to protect and invest in the very features that our community loves so much. At a time when more people than ever are discovering Roanoke’s extensive range of outdoor activities, Freedom First is excited to support this initiative.”

Corporate supporters include Alcova Mortgage, Anthem, Blue Mountain Adventures, Blue Ridge Hydroponics, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Brown Edwards, Cardinal Bicycle, Carilion Clinic, Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, Deschutes Brewery, Dominion Risk Advisors, Downshift Bikes, Draper Aden Associates, East Coasters, E.C. Pace Company, Fleet Feet, Freedom First, Gentry Locke, GO Outside Festival, Haley Toyota, Hydro Flask, Member One Federal Credit Union, Mountain Shepherd Adventure School, Orvis, Roanoke Mountain Adventures, Runabout Sports, Treetop Quest Explore Park, and Twin River Outfitters.

The initial kick-off goal for Project Outside was $100,000 in 2020 and there’s a definite need to keep it going.

Many of the region’s outdoor spaces have seen a 200 percent increase in usage in the past year, partially attributed to the pandemic, that has created rapid wear and tear on well-used trails, greenways, and river access points. Further, a 2018 Outdoor Infrastructure Impact study indicated inadequate funding for maintenance of outdoor assets was a concern.

This is our time to invest in our community strength – the outdoors – to continue positioning the Roanoke Region as a preferred place to live, work, play, and visit. Contributions can still be made.