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Explore Park Economic Consortium's Plan B proposal, July 20, 2010

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A library/museum dedicated to the life and career of Earl Hamner Jr., creator of “The Waltons,” could be coming to Explore Park. …

A library/museum dedicated to the life and career of Earl Hamner Jr., creator of “The Waltons,” could be coming to Explore Park.
The proposal was unveiled Tuesday, July 20, 2010, at a meeting of the park’s governing board, the Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority, as part of a Plan B for the park now that its five-year agreement with developer Larry Vander Maten has dissolved. K.C. Bratton, chairman of the Explore Park Economic Consortium, said details have not been finalized, but that the Emmy-award winning writer Hamner has agreed to house his library at the park, in part because of its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hamner reportedly wants the library project to be an interactive experience, with an emphasis on encouraging young people to learn about filmmaking.

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  • July 29, 2009, The VRFA voted to pursue an operations plan in the event that VLH did not go forward. The Economic Development Consortium, made up of planning, economic development, and recreational professionals representing stakeholders in the park were assembled to conduct a thorough analysis of Explore Park’s options moving forward. The consortium’s work is substantially complete, and this is the opportunity for the VRFA to review the results. It is important to note that there have been 12 meetings (including field reviews), 1300 man hours, and formal presentations by some of the best professionals in their field. This report is in now a master plan for the park, but a bevy of options that members of the consortium believe will provide a path to the parks future. The following is Explore Now!. Debbie Pitt’s our Executive Director will assist in comments as she feels appropriate, and I would ask that any questions come at the end, as this is a 41 slide presentation.
  • There are areas of the park that are open, but not marketed to the public, and the bike trails are one of those amenities. We have been fortunate to have a group of professionals volunteer to maintain, and host events on the bike trails. Our agreement with Mountain Junkies LLC has been in place for the last three years and we have cultivated a wonderful relationship with bike enthusiast throughout the region. Our trails are Ranked #2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway after Dupont State Park, in NC.
  • The park has approximately 6 hiking trails, half a mile to 10 miles; easy to difficult.
  • Rutrough Point: Access to the Roanoke River and Back Creek for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking of the one mile River Walk Trail along the Roanoke River. Rutrough Point: Access to the Roanoke River and Back Creek for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking of the one mile River Walk Trail along the Roanoke River.
  • Currently they average 1800 visitors monthly.
  • The Park is approached regularly for events. Recently, The Treasure Hunt had over 300 paying participants competing for $40k in prizes.
  • There are quite a few things that we do well without a huge outlay of capital, and while we prepare to meet greater opportunities in the long run, the short run is just as exciting and accessible.
  • In the year that the park closed there were 112 rentals, a 15% increase over the previous year: There were 24 weddings, 24 receptions, 40 picnics, 20 meetings, 7 camps and all agricultural leases had been renewed.
  • In 2007 the Park had 982 participants in our workshops, camps and programs; a 257% increase over the previous year. Explore Your Limits III had 193 runners, a 62% increase over the previous year;Roanoke Rodeo Roundup had over $100,000 in donated advertising for Explore park.
  • Our Film Center has been involved in more than 16 productions since 2003, working with Lionsgate Films, Stormcatcher Productions, The Sci-fi channel, the History Channel, A & E, PBS, and Outdoor Living Network. Governor McDonnell recently signed into law Virginia’s first ever tax credit for the motion picture industry. This is Designed to recruit the production of television, film, documentaries and interactive digital media to Virginia, this legislation was part of the Governor's Jobs and Opportunity" economic development agenda. Governor McDonnell also increased his Motion Picture Opportunity Fund from $200,000 to $2,000,000. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng stated, "Virginia's media production industry is an important part of this administration's strategy for economic growth and job creation for the Commonwealth. 
  • The historic area is our signature opportunity and it provides a great deal of exposure to the park. We need this area to not only meet our obligation to the enabling legislation, but our obligation to the community; providing them with a chance to revisit history. In the past the historic area created the greatest challenge due to it’s expense. It was the primary focus of our staff of 13 employees, and this made it terribly expensive. A return of the historic area is prudent if we provide either guided or self guided tours with the use of modern technology; sound sticks, and or kiosks. The year we closed the historic area there were approximately 24k visitors in this area alone. 55% were school children, and 45% were the general public.
  • A key element to opening the historic area will be volunteers. In the year the historic area ceased to operate, Volunteers provided 8211 hours of volunteer service – a 33% increase over the previous year, 2,973 hours were provided by 10 individuals. The volunteer labor was valued at approximately $154,000 (using 2005 Virginia Average Hourly Value of Volunteer time – VEC) $18.73/hour
  • In many areas of Explore Park we will have to considered the viability of pay to play access, while insuring that fees are not cost prohibitive. Mountain Biking, Hiking, Fishing, and river access for canoeing can be outlined as free public access or introduce a nominal fee, parking pass, or annual pass to generate revenue to maintain and improve the facilities. In 2007 the park had approximately 61700 visitors a 13% increase over the previous year. If we could have charged everyone $1.50, we would have raised $92,600.
  • We want to leverage our best assets to provide an experience worth repeating, and worth paying for.
  • A mission statement was developed from the consortium’s research, and it reads:
  • Outdoor recreation is something that existed at the park on a limited basis, but by today’s standards we have yet to scratch the surface of our potential as an outdoor recreation venue. By capitalizing on specialized programming, and unique outdoor recreational opportunities, we position the park so as to maximize the natural setting. At present we are in talks with one of the premiere promoters of outdoor recreation. The cost are minimal and the rewards are as follows: (read chart)
  • As part of our push for outdoor recreation, a bike center has been targeted as a catalyst for generating critical mass at the park in promotion of the wonderful international mountain biking association trails that we have at Explore Park.
  • this example is of multi-discipline cycling park, supporting a vast array of cycling disciplines. Epic single-track for the mountain biker , rhythmic pump tracks for BMX enthusiasts, and cyclocross circuits designed in the style of the best courses in Belgium will be available for all to experience and allow any skill level to enjoy from beginner to expert, child to senior citizen. This is a model of a park in Colorado built in 45 acres.
  • This map illustrates biking opportunities in the region. It should be noted that The Blue Ridge Parkway is interested in working with the VRFA to tie in the proposed Blue Ridge Parkway mountain bike trail system along the Roanoke River Parkway with the existing mountain bike trails and proposed bike center at Explore Park-This is in the works now! Explore Park’s Bike Trails will become part of a network of biking trails along The Blue Ridge Parkway, marketed by The Blue Ridge Parkway internationally. Not only is this an honor, but it is one of the best examples of how successful the Economic Development Consortium has been in bringing people together to operate in the best interest of Explore Park, as two members of the consortium work for The Blue Ridge Parkway, and this was an opportunity that he recognized and facilitated.
  • The model for this facility exist in one of the well known amusement parks. It consist of: …(read slide). Kids programming is essential to the future of the park. At the time that we ceased to pursue programming in 2005, Debbie and her staff had secured funding for a Historically Themed Playground. This would be a great opportunity to promote health and wellness to our children.
  • The nearest water park consist of approximately 40 acres, with 36 rides, uses 3 million gallons of water, and has an annual attendance of 500,000 people. The impact study that was the impetus for Splash Valley and The Green Ridge Recreational Center, also provides for a large scale Water experience elsewhere in the region. I would also like everyone to consider that Water Country – Williamsburg and Emerald Point Water Park, Greensboro, NC advertising regularly on our local television networks appealing to our market area.
  • The types of recreational venues that we are proposing lend themselves to overnight stays. With campgrounds, cabins, and an RV park we become a destination capitalizing on our recreational venues, programs, and events. Recently, the park was approached to provide camping for the Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon Participants. We are in preliminary discussion for cabin’s, the developer spent a day in the park about a week ago with advisors. The VLH submissions provided a pathway to a hospitality component at Explore Park, and we would wise to leverage those studies to determine the viability of overnight accommodations and ancillary opportunities.
  • At the time that we began negotiations with Virginia Living Histories, there was an opportunity to pursue greenway trails through the park. The consortium identified greenways as a was of maximizing the utility of the park. This is a map that displays our options with regard to greenways.
  • Our river is an amenity that needs to be considered in the broad view. Water recreation is tied to the opportunities throughout the region. We need to pursue a thorough analysis of the options that avail themselves to the VRFA. A riverwalk, boating, fishing, and the like need the expertise of outfitters who know how to maximize the use of the river while providing a return to the park.
  • It was suggested in the consortium meetings that we pursue a minimalist approach in developing an amphitheater, no elaborate concrete structures. Just take full advantage of the terrain as in this example above.
  • Al Hammond, a member of the consortium presented the Riverside Pavilion as an opportunity to generate revenue. Mr. Hammond’s experience with this sort of venue is well chronicled. He is the owner of Braehlock, and Boxtree Lodge. This model has been successful in this region. Ideal for hosting (slide). Mr. Hammond has provided a downsized plan that would save us $100k on construction, and he also offered to help us for the first year to set up reservations and operations. The site planning committee noted that the Riverside Pavilion could anchor a future riverwalk.
  • The Site Planning Commitment conducted field reviews and by using topographical areas of the park they were able to minimize heavy construction in developing viable sites. The field reviews consisted of the site planning committee physically inspecting the site, and reviewing the future opportunities to determine their viability. For example if you look at this map you will see the hospitality plaza in yellow, and the ride center in situated on a contiguous site, suitable for the ride centers purpose. This map represents the Roanoke County Side, and it was determined by the site planning committee that more work was necessary for the Bedford County side and there are access proffers that make it difficult to develop much of it at this time. The site planning committee will be meeting with it’s consortium representatives, and Ms. Guzi to initiate discussions with Bedford County. Debbie please provide a few details about the whole layout here…..
  • Virginia’s 2007 Outdoor Plan provided guidance in operating in an economy that limited the governments ability to respond to funding request. The consortium encouraged public private partnerships. Phil Frances, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a presenter at one of our consortium meetings along with Mr. Joe Elton, Director of Virginia State Parks and they both commended us for pursuing public private partnerships a concept supported by the 2007 outdoor plan for Virginia, in encourages us to (Read underlined).
  • This is the old business model in which one group had to manage a multitude of programs during the course of an 8 month season. It was labor intensive and very expensive for the VRFA, and in the consortiums opinion presented an impossible task without a super director. We are lucky enough to have a super director.
  • The goal is to seek private entities for agreements that give them access to pursue ventures at Explore Park as permitted by the VRFA. The VRFA will chart the future of Explore Park by determining what public private partnerships that we engage in. A couple of immediate examples of our ability to engage professionals for public private partnerships include the Mount Union Church, Cabins, Outdoor Recreation Programming with a professional outdoor recreation promoter. The Executive Director will be charged with managing these agreements, along with the Explore parks common areas, and infrastructure. The Historical Areas, and The Vistor’s Center will remain a part of the Executive Director’s charge.
  • Using the Taubman for retail opportunities has been discussed. A retail venue that sells goods that have been created along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to include quilts, candy, musical instruments, furniture, and wines. A Blue Ridge Parkway Crafts center has also been discussed.
  • The United States Forest Service Explains: Stewardship plans lay out strategies for achieving unique landowner objectives and sustaining forest health and vigor. Actively managed forests provide timber, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, recreational opportunities and many other benefits for landowners and society. Through active management of Explore Park’s forest the additional benefit will be the possibility of additional annual income through timber sales of carefully selected trees, creating an environmental demonstration program, and creating safer environment for park visitors.
  • The original goal for Explore Park was to amass 2000 acres, and between 1986 and 1996 approximately 1300 acres were acquired, and today the park is made up of 1100 acres. There has been no land management program in place to evaluate the viability of all of the VRFA’s land holdings. It has been recommended that we create a land management program modeled after the State of Virginia’s land management program that sets criteria for the surplus of land. (components)?
  • Cell towers are viable opportunity for generating revenue, and it has been confirmed that Bedford Country could use the towers for improved data communications, cell phones, and internet services. The current rate is $500 per month for low population centers to $4,000 per month for premium sites. Explore is considered a premium site, and the revenues could be in the range of $35k to $175k per year. This is a picture of two cell towers. The stealth tower is something that we can take advantage of at the park. The cell tower is reight beside the Folk Art Center in Ashville, NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • These are all great ideas, and there is no way to simply wave a magic wand and expect them to appear. The are suggestions by the consortium in pursuit of the future at Explore Park. Members of the consortium knew this was the beginning and there are a whole host of ideas cataloged as part of this process that they felt were not suitable to pursue. It is up the VRFA to determine what we pursue going forward. What is being proposed is that the Executive Director be allow to fully vet the opportunities presented by the consortium, and provide recommendations as the board, and opportunities permit. This is nothing new to the VRFA, as this is how we have pursued opportunities in the past. We ask the question? And then we search for the answer. With that said our way forward is clear….
  • The Executive Director will pursue opportunities as directed by the VRFA. The director will at her discretion convene the Economic Development Advisory Committee to determine a course of action, and or a recommendation. Recommendations could include site recommendations, developer, funding package, or provide any additional information in assisting the VRFA to make a decision. The board liason will operate in much of the way that I have, providing access to board members, information, and advice. I have been careful not to tamper with the process, we have had the right people at the table the entire time.
  • The consortium consisted of: (read) : This will also be the VRFA’s advisory council.. I would like to thank this group of wonderful and committed professionals as this time, and I would also like to add a special thanks to the Town of Vinton for providing the consortium room and board at the Vinton War Memorial for every meeting…
  • We would like to Complete Programming through the end of the year while planning our 2011 prudently.
  • There are quite a few things on the table for us to begin serious discussions and negotiations on, among them are Cabin Village, Cell Towers, Outdoor Recreation Programming, Retail Center, and the next opportunity…..
  • We have been in touch with this gentleman about an opportunity to work with Explore Park on a Venture that would provide him a unique presence at the Park. He is interested in Explore Park housing his library. Does anyone recognize him? He is an Emmy award winning writer; having created Falcon Crest, written the screenplay for Charlotte’s Web, but arguably his greatest success was a story that chronicle life on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is Mr. Earl Hamner Jr. and he is the writer of
  • Mr. Hamner has agreed to allow Explore Park to house his library as we are located on the Blue Ridge parkway. The discussion start in earnest with the VRFA’s blessing. All of the details have not been fleshed out, but he has indicated a desire to have a film program for kids as part of the programming at the library. He is expecting to hear from Debbie this evening. This whole opportunity evolved the same way much of what is going on at Explore Park evolved; people found out that we were open for business. Debbie was approached by a local nursing home for permission to shoot a commercial in the park. The producer has a long standing relationship with Mr. Hamner and his family. Debbie seized upon the moment to indicate that Explore Park would love to work with Mr. Hamner in anyway that he would like to work with us. Mr. Hamner follow up by offering us the rights to his library, provided we can come to an agreement. Debbie would you mind providing some more information.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Virginia’s Explore Park NOW July 20, 2010
    • 2. Explore Park is Open for Business “The Venues”
      • Subaru Mountain Bike Trail System : 9 miles of International Mountain Bike Association sanctioned (IMBA) bike trails consisting of beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
    • 3. Explore Park is Open for Business “The Venues”
      • Forester’s Hiking Trail : American Society of Forester’s ¾ Mile interpreted hiking trail explaining the types of trees along the trail.
    • 4. Explore Park is Open for Business “The Venues”
      • Rutrough Point: Access to the Roanoke River and Back Creek for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking of the one mile River Walk Trail along the Roanoke River.
    • 5. Explore Park is Open for Business “The Venues”
      • Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center: open 7 days weekly from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm May 1 through October 31 to serve visitors on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 10,000 square foot facility; a partnership between Virginia’s Explore Park, the County of Roanoke, and the Blue Ridge Parkway; contains a tourist information center, theater, gift shop, and 3,000 square feet of exhibit space with permanent exhibits on the Parkway and the history of the Roanoke Region.
    • 6. Explore Park is Open for Business “The Events”
      • Film Camp Reunion – June 19, 2010
      • Treasure Hunt Trail Event – July 11, 2010
      • Explore Park Staff Reunion – July 18, 2010
      • Hike for Horizons – October 9, 2010 (Fundraiser for New Horizons Healthcare & Explore Park)
      • Anthem’s “Into the Darkness” 5K & 10K Trail Race – October 23, 2010
      • Halloween BooGoo Bash – October 29, 2010
      • Explore Your Limits 5k & 10k Trail Race – March 23, 2010
    • 7. Explore Park NOW! Plan B – Immediate Opportunities (6 months to a year)
    • 8. Explore Park – Plan B “Rentals and Leases”
      • Weddings
      • Receptions
      • Picnics
      • Meetings
      • Corporate Functions
      • Camps
      • Agriculture leases
    • 9. Explore Park – Plan B “Special Events and Programs”
    • 10. Explore Park – Plan B “Film Center”
    • 11. Explore Park – Plan B “Reopen Historic Area”
    • 12. Explore Park – Plan B “Reopen Historic Area - Volunteers”
    • 13. Explore Park – Plan B “Park Pass Program”
    • 14. Explore Park NOW! Plan B – The Future
    • 15. Explore Park – Plan B “Mission”
      • To be leaders in providing outdoor recreational opportunities, stewardship of our region’s heritage, and advocacy for environmental conservation for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of present and future generations.
    • 16. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Outdoor Recreation”
      • Outdoor recreation contributes $18.7 billion in Virginia.
      • Outdoor recreation provides 210,000 jobs in Virginia.
      • Outdoor recreation generates more than $88 billion in annual local, state and federal tax revenue.
      • Outdoor recreation produces $243 billion annually in retail sales.
    • 17. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Ride Center”
      • Biking contributes $133 billion to the US economy.
      • The biking industry contributes more than $17.7 billion in tax revenues to state, local and federal governments.
      • The Biking industry contributes $53.1 billion in retail sales.
      • The South Atlantic is home to more than 10 million bicyclists – 25% of the adult population.
    • 18. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Ride Center”
    • 19. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Ride Center”
    • 20. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Adventure Park for Kids”
      • 2 Acres of Mountain Side Terrain
      • 100 Challenging Rope Features
      • Swinging Beams, Suspension Bridges, Flying Islands and Tire Traverse
    • 21. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Water Park”
    • 22. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Overnight Accommodations”
    • 23. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Greenways”
    • 24. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – The River”
    • 25. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Amphitheater”
    • 26. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Riverside Pavilion”
      • Wedding Receptions
      • Corporate Events
      • Reunions
      • Catered Events
      • Construction cost estimated at $235k
      • Annual Revenue estimated at $100k
    • 27. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Site Analysis”
    • 28. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Business Model”
      • “ In times of increasing demand but limited funding, public and private partnerships take on increased importance. Consequently, local, state, and federal government agencies should expand development of private sector partnerships and volunteer support to meet growing outdoor recreation needs.”
    • 29. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Old Business Model” Parkway Visitors Center Management Maintenance Fund Sourcing Land Inventory Management Leases Maintenance 38 Parcels 1100 Acreas Multiple Agreements Infrastructure Water System Sewage Treatment Facilities Mountain Bike Trails Forester’s Interpretive Trail Parking Lots and Roads Volunteer Program 8211 Hours Coordinated Workshops, Camps, & Programs 982 Attendees Buildings 25 Additional Buildings Maintenance Storage Inventorying River Foundation Management Donor Services Event Planning Legislative Program Roanoke County Bedford County State of Virginia The Taubman Rentals Maintenance Management The Brugh Tavern Lease Negotiations Maintenance Management Mount Union Church Fees Maintenance Management VRFA Executive Director And Staff
    • 30. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – New Business Model” VRFA Arthur Taubman Retail Outlet Inc. The Brugh Tavern Inc. Mount Union Church Inc. Executive Director
    • 31. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Retail Outlet”
    • 32. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Forest Management”
    • 33. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Surplus Land Management”
    • 34. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Communication Towers”
    • 35. Explore Park NOW! Our Way Forward
    • 36. Explore Park - Plan B Protocol VRFA Executive Director and Appointed VRFA Board Member Ride Center Concept The Adventure Park The Water Park Economic Development Advisory Committee
    • 37. Explore Park – Economic Advisory Council
      • Pete Haislip, Roanoke County Director Parks, Recreation, & Tourism
      • Doug Chittum, Roanoke County Director Economic Development
      • Philip Thompson, Roanoke County Deputy Director of Planning
      • Mary Zirkle, Bedford County Chief of Planning
      • Anne Pollard Bedford County Board of Supervisors - District 66
      • Chris Lawrence, Vinton Town Manager
      • Christopher Chittum, Roanoke City Planning Administrator
      • Michael Burnette, Franklin County Director of Commerce & Leisure Services
      • Tori Williams, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce Assistant VP of Public Policy
      • Josh GilbertMountain Junkies LLC Owner
      • Pete Eshelman, Roanoke Regional Partnership Director of Outdoor Branding
      • Monika Mayr, Blue Ridge Parkway Deputy Superintendent
      • Gary W. Johnson, Blue Ridge Parkway Chief Resource Planning Division
      • Wanda Reed, Government Liaison Mayflower Hills Civic League
      • Al Hammond, Braeloch & Boxtree Lodge Owner
      • Ed Hacker, Roanoke Valley Resource Authority Environmental & Safety Manager
    • 38. Explore Park – Programs 2010
      • Film Camp Reunion – June 19, 2010
      • Treasure Hunt Trail Event – July 11, 2010
      • Explore Park Staff Reunion – July 18, 2010
      • Hike for Horizons – October 9, 2010 (Fundraiser for New Horizons Healthcare & Explore Park)
      • Anthem’s “Into the Darkness” 5K & 10K Trail Race – October 23, 2010
      • Halloween BooGoo Bash – October 29, 2010
      • Explore Your Limits 5k & 10k Trail Race – March 23, 2010
    • 39. Explore Park – Planning for 2011
      • Rentals and Leases
      • Special Events and Programs
      • Historic Area Reopening
      • Mountain Biking, Hiking, Fishing,
      • Developing Fee Schedule
      • Initiate The Future- Allocate Resources
      • Create Friends of Explore Park
      • Begin monthly VRFA board meetings through year end for updates and action
      • Authorize Negotiations
    • 40. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Library & Film Center”
    • 41. Explore Park – Plan B “The Future – Earl Hamner Jr.’s Library & Film Center”