In January of 2014, West Virginia Focus Magazine launched the Turn This Town Around campaign in partnership with the WV Community Development Hub and WV Public Broadcasting. The object was simple: Work with two towns in West Virginia to identify projects that would make a big difference to their communities and help them find the resources and complete those projects.
After a vote in which more than 16,000 people participated, Grafton in the northern part of the state and Matewan in the southern became the first Turn This Town Around towns.
Since January the towns have gone to work. Cleaning up their communities and giving them makeovers was one of the first steps, and that effort is well under way.
At town meetings in April, 131 people in Grafton and 75 in Matewan (about 15% of the population) came out to get involved and propose possible projects. Residents identified initiatives from things as simple as painting/cleaning town structures, to renovating/restoring older buildings, creating green spaces and opening new businesses.
- Reopen train depot for tourism train rides
- Expand Memorial Day festivities
- Add parking, shops, restaurants, and a year-round farmers’ market
- Community garden
- Clean storefronts
- Assisting the elderly and handicapped with cleaning up property
- Walking trails with gardens that can be adopted by civic groups
- Veterans’ memorial park
- Restore the Willard Hotel
- Open the Manos Theater
- A souvenir shop that stays open all day
- Restore historic jail
- Build an amphitheater
- Open historical underground coal mine
- “Shop local” Saturdays
- After-school activities
- Open a “comedy barn” to increase nightlife
- Enhanced green spaces with benches and a running track
- A women’s club
- Develop recycling collection
- More lodging options
- A trail system connecting Gilbert and Matewan
Since January, exciting things have been happening for the two West Virginia towns. In Matewan, an abandoned high school building has become a fitness center for the community. In Grafton, the annual Memorial Day festivities were expanded and a children’s park is getting a makeover. In both towns, there are scheduled clean up days making everything look nicer. Some of the easier projects on the lists are already being accomplished.
Stay in the loop:
- Follow updates in West Virginia Focus Magazine‘s special Turn This Town Around section.
- Listen to West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio broadcasts documenting the progress of both towns.