Blueprint Community, Parsons, creates a recreational haven

A message from the Blueprint Communities team of Parsons: 

Yes, it’s been an unbelievably crazy year, and yes, you’d think a city probably couldn’t make much progress during this time, but Parsons defied all odds. And most of this progress is due to the assistance provided to us as a Blueprint Community.  

The program kicked off with community events. Citizens of Parsons were invited to the program kick-off, which was held in Mill Race Park, as well as a Chat and Chew event and a Cake Walk. At these events, our partners gave our local Blueprint team valuable input and decided what they wanted Parsons to become in the next few years. We took a serious look at that information and our community assets to determine how we could build on them.

Recreation partners came together to gain input and determine what a plan of action could be. This led to a serious discussion of the outstanding hiking and biking trails and the pristine waters of our five rivers that are being underused for recreation. The team also held a business forum which led to much discussion of priorities and led to the new Facebook group: We Are Parsons.

The city obtained a dilapidated building on the main street in Parsons and demolished it for much-needed green space downtown. We were awarded a competitive grant from the Mills Group for the design of the area, and a pocket park is ready to be built. A pergola will be the feature of the pocket park also with a mural on the PRO Plaza Building.  This area will provide an outstanding meeting and greeting place.   

PRO On Trac, which has worked in conjunction with the Blueprint Community Team, is currently renovating the first floor of a building on the Historic Register to be used for two retail businesses—all are hopeful that one of them will be a coffee shop that will open out onto the pocket park area. Another dilapidated building has been demolished, and there is a potential for multi-family housing to be constructed there.  

Short-term plans include implementing a “Paint a Bench” project to accentuate the river banks in downtown Parsons, a loan program for businesses to fix the façade of their buildings, continuing plans with the Parsons Economic Development Authority to have our first industry located in our industrial park in early 2021, and working together to define and better utilize our recreation industry.

While we are all busy fixing up the town, being a Blueprint Community has made us take a serious approach to these outstanding natural resources in our area. This mindset of prioritizing our rivers as an asset needed to take place.  The City of Parsons mayor, Dorothy Judy, sums up the attitude towards our rivers beautifully.  “After the flood of 1985, we became afraid of our rivers and the damage they did. After studying our assets, we now know we need to celebrate our rivers and the opportunities they bring our community for enhanced water sports, such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming and floating.” City Administrator Jason Myers further expounded upon our natural resources, “Our hiking and biking trails provide a scenic visit through our Mon Forest Town and community.”  

The Parsons Blueprint Team is assisting in moving forward to meet the needs of our citizens and visitors alike. As Corridor H nears completion, Parsons is defining itself as a safe, family-friendly recreational haven in Almost Heaven.

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Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: a statewide land bank and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development