Appalachian Trail Backpacking Course Offered

 Photo credit: Adventure Alan

Photo credit: Adventure Alan

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is currently accepting applications from novice hikers for its backpacking course in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in southwest Virginia. The course will be held in early November. According to the ATC, "the 3 day/2-night led backpacking course will help new hikers feel prepared to successfully hike the A.T. while gaining an appreciation for the outdoors, knowledge of the A.T., and exposure to long-distance hiking culture." 

The course is limited to six participants, and spots will be tentatively reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis (applications will be reviewed and selected by ATC staff). The course is $375, which includes food and course materials. To apply, click here.

Why A Plaza for Downtown Crozet?

 Bellingham, WA

Bellingham, WA

Why has so much time and effort been spent on developing a plaza for downtown Crozet? After researching many successful small towns across America, reviewing key studies on what it takes to build prosperous communities, and speaking with countless industry experts and advisors, one thing was apparent: the most successful small towns in America have a town “center,” the heart of the community. 

Crozet is already a wonderful community that has captured the hearts of everyone who lives, works, and visits here. But, downtown could BE and offer so much more. The plaza will serve as the catalyst for what will be an even more vibrant and successful downtown. It will help Crozet attract the types of local businesses that will enhance everything that we love about our charming and quirky little community. Imagine kids running around playing games as you quietly enjoy your coffee from the park bench, friends meeting up at an outdoor café surrounding the plaza, outdoor events with food trucks and live music, movies under the stars…the possibilities are endless.

MAKING THE PLAZA A REALITY

Input and support from the entire community is vital to ensuring that downtown grows organically and retains the uniqueness that we’re all working to achieve. In order to attract and keep the types of businesses the community has requested: local cafes, restaurants, retail shops, a boutique hotel, and new industry (likely tech-based businesses), we need to keep rent rates affordable. To do this, the developer cannot solely fund the plaza. If he does, guess where he’s going to recoup that cost? Rent rates.

The developer, Frank Stoner, is donating the land, but the County and our community need to play a part in creating the space. Since Crozet has been designated a growth area by the County, it’s our job to make sure that when this growth occurs, it’s done in a way that will preserve everything we love about Crozet while ensuring it’s a success.

We’re seeking as much input from the community as possible. If you’re interested in joining us to help revitalize downtown Crozet and make this plaza a reality, please email us at info@downtowncrozetinitiative.com

Strategies for Revitalizing Downtown Crozet

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In addition to our monthly DCI meetings, we wanted to give you an update on a major focus of our work over the past several months. 

Earlier this year, the DCI was awarded a grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Virginia Main Street program. Since Crozet is not a town or city, we cannot be a Main Street Community. So officially, we are a DHCD: Commercial District Affiliate of the Main Street program.

Virginia Main Street offers a range of services and assistance to communities interested in revitalizing their historic commercial districts. As part of the grant, the Main Street program offers a list of strategies for communities to choose from that help guide revitalization efforts. The selected strategies are to be based on a “solid understanding of the district’s economy and its position in the regional market.” The DCI selected three strategies based on feedback received from public meetings held in 2016 and 2017; regular monthly meetings with the DCI members, community and county; and, the Crozet community survey. They include:

1. Family-Friendly Strategy

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Family-friendly commercial districts offer a range of products and services for families. These districts host special events geared toward families and provide a safe environment in which to have fun. Businesses offer products and services for these audiences, as well as store hours for busy families. More than anything, this strategy focuses on children. With many families living in and moving to Crozet, the DCI felt this strategy was an ideal fit. Respondents to the 2017 Crozet Community Survey found Crozet to be a family-friendly community, rating it 4.2 on a 1 to 5 scale where 5 best described Crozet.

2. Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

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More than anything, this strategy is defined by the value of place and the physical environment as central factors in creating and growing successful enterprises. It emphasizes the creation and support of great places and spaces for people to live and work, and for commercial districts to attract new businesses and ideas to contribute to the development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

According to the Crozet Community Survey, many Crozet residents drive to Charlottesville (32% several times a week; 26% weekly; 24% several times a month), Waynesboro (6% several times a week; 19% weekly; 24% several times a month) or to Crozet shopping areas along Route 250 outside of the downtown district (37% several times a week; 34% weekly; 18% several times a month). Residents also frequently shop downtown (42% several times a week; 22% weekly; 15% several times a month). At the same time, 98% of respondents support existing small businesses in Crozet, and 90% want downtown Crozet to be a quality commercial center with a diversity of businesses and services. This contrast suggests residents would prefer to shop in downtown Crozet if the desired goods and services were present.

The DCI’s goal is to adhere to the characteristics that make Crozet so admirable and charming. For future businesses, we are aiming to attract and retain independently owned shops, restaurants and bars, and services that people working in downtown Crozet will need. With the proposed design of the Barnes Lumber property, the new town center Plaza will complete the “spaces” aspect of this strategy, as it will be located near historic properties, restaurants, cafes, and other businesses desired by the working community.

3. Tourists and Tourism

 Photo credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Photo credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Marketing downtown Crozet as a tourist destination is suitable given its proximity to the Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, George Washington National Forest, and Claudius Crozet Tunnel (park under construction). Its potential for becoming an Appalachian Community; promotion of the rich agricultural history of the area, including the emergent wine, beer and cider industry and farm-to-table mentality; a destination for day and touring cyclists along the 76 Bikeway; a burgeoning arts community; and increasingly, a wedding destination site, also will help draw people from outside of the area. Authenticity of a location also plays a large part in marketing a community as a tourist destination. The primary economic benefit of tourism is that it brings outside consumer spending to the community. This will benefit the businesses in downtown Crozet, but the DCI also is well aware that an increase in visitors may make downtown feel “less local” if it gets crowded with traffic, experiences an increase in prices, etc. This will play a major part in our planning for this strategy moving forward.

Get Involved in Our Revitalization Efforts for Downtown Crozet

We tried to highlight the most important aspects of each strategy, but many more details about each can be found here. It’s also important to note that the DCI is focused solely on downtown Crozet; however, the hope is that the work that takes place in downtown will benefit businesses and the community as a whole in the greater Crozet area.

We would love for you to join our efforts! We will be developing a work plan for each of the strategies. If you have any interest in joining one of the three committees that have formed to tackle each of these strategies, please email us at info@downtowncrozetinitiative.com, or comment below. Thank you!

Etiquette to being a Good Neighbor.

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1.     Welcoming Committee

You don’t have to enlist the help of a formal welcoming committee, but it’s simple and easy to make a new family feel welcomed to the neighborhood. Stop by to introduce yourself and your family (and even your pets!) and consider exchanging phone numbers (or email addresses). Bring a small dish or bouquet of fresh flowers to make their likely-bare new home feel lived in. Ask the new family if they would like recommendations for utilities providers, doctors, dentists, vet’s office or anywhere else. If you are willing and able, offer to host a dinner/cookout once they are settled so they can meet with other neighbors.

 

2.     Maintain Curb Appeal

No one wants to have the house that drags down the value of all other homes on the street. Be conscientious of maintaining your lawn and landscaping, at least to the same level as the rest of the neighborhood. This includes mowing the lawn, trimming bushes and trees, keeping clutter at bay (or at least not visible to neighbors), and correcting any home maintenance or safety issues that are especially visible. You’ll appreciate a well-manicured lawn and tidy home appearance from your neighbors as well!

 

3.     Respectful of Outdoor Noise

Chances are, you checked out many neighborhoods before settling on the home you are moving into. You should have a good idea of the demographics/backgrounds of the types of people who live in your new neighborhood. Make sure that you maintain respect when hosting gatherings or parties, whether it be during the daytime or in the evening. Ask guests to park in your driveway or in front of your house so as not to block neighbors parking. Try to keep noise to a minimum when a party lasts late into the evening. And, when possible, just invite the neighbors to attend!

 

4.     Go the extra Mile

Does your neighborhood have an HOA? Do you own pets? Make sure you know and follow any HOA rules that apply to your community. Be responsible with your pets, ensuring that you clean up after them and follow any/all leash laws in your city. If you have an issue with a neighbor, try to first discuss it with that person. Don’t be the neighborhood gossip. Respect your neighbor’s property and their belongings. Lend a helping hand when you can.