WAYNESBORO – A concept in development for over 20 years, the Waynesboro location of the Virginia Museum of Natural History is now being realized with state funding for its design.
City of Waynesboro staff and residents gathered on Wednesday afternoon for the site unveiling. According to Greg Hitchin, the city’s director of economic development, the idea of creating an interpretive center focused on natural resources dates back to the first Virginia Fly Fishing Festival in 2000.
The Center for Coldwaters Restoration, a volunteer group that was formed in 2010, helped spark the construction of the Education Pavilion at Constitution Park with the vision and contributions of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Dominion Energy, according to a statement.
The new museum location will be at the corner of West Main Street and Arch Avenue in downtown Waynesboro. The Waynesboro campus was included in the Virginia budget, which was approved by the Virginia General Assembly, according to a statement. This will allow the museum to move forward with detailed design work and an exhibit experience of the new downtown Waynesboro museum facility, the statement said.
“This is an exciting step in the museum’s pursuit of a permanent presence in the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley area,” said Faye Cooper, Chair of the Waynesboro Advocacy Committee Committee of the VMNH Board of Directors, in the press release. “With this bill, VMNH is now in a position to move from the conceptual design stage of a new museum facility in Waynesboro to the development of detailed designs.”
The Waynesboro Museum will contain approximately 20,000 square feet of exhibits, classrooms and visible laboratories, as well as a green roof overlooking the South River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“The Waynesboro campus will showcase many features that make Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah Valley truly distinctive,” said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the museum in a statement. “Particular emphasis will be placed on the ecology, paleontology and cultural history of the region, as well as the sources that make the South River the largest urban trout fishery in the state.”
The new museum will be an important educational asset for all Virginians and a flagship institution in the revitalization of downtown Waynesboro, the statement said.
“A campus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro is an important step in redefining our landscape,” Hitchin said. “Strategically located adjacent to the planned South River Preserve, the museum will provide a unique educational and recreational experience for citizens and visitors. , while creating jobs and supporting small businesses. “
It will be an 18-month process for designing the development, according to museum officials – all of which will include input from stakeholders, like the public, educators and more.
“Throughout this effort to bring a museum campus to Waynesboro, VMNH leaders have worked closely with regional educators, colleges and universities, and conservation organizations to receive feedback on how a Museum presence may be most beneficial for this region, ”said Len Poulin, VMNH Foundation board member and board member of the Center for Coldwaters Restoration. “We will continue to work with community members throughout the detailed design process to ensure that the museum is a real asset to the entire region.”
The total cost of building and equipping the Virginia Museum of Natural History-Waynesboro is estimated to be around $ 22 million – part of it coming from a package of financial incentives from the city, state, and fundraising private funds and possible state capital funding.
In 2018, Waynesboro City Council approved a $ 1 million incentive, which includes direct financial contributions, in-kind support, and real estate and is conditional on additional state financial support of at least $ 7 million. dollars for the construction of a new building in downtown Waynesboro.
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A feasibility study found that the museum would serve all of Virginia, with a primary service area of 11 towns and counties in the Shenandoah Valley, stretching from Rockbridge County north to Rockingham County and across the is from Albemarle County.
Between 45,000 and 85,000 visitors are expected to use the facility each year, according to the council’s memo. The total annual economic impact has been estimated at $ 2 million.
The specific characteristics of the installation would include:
- Exciting and creative exhibits interpreting the local environment and natural history using some of the 10 million artifacts currently housed in Martinsville
- Environmental classrooms supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and providing an opportunity for some 63,000 K-12 students to explore and d ‘learn
- An interactive play area for early childhood learning
- Publicly accessible laboratories where curators and academic partners will have the opportunity to work and learn
- A resource for public program and scientific research partners that will include the Wildlife Center of Virginia, James Madison University and the Department of Inland Hunting and Fisheries
The VMNH is the state’s natural history museum, dedicated to interpreting the natural and cultural heritage of the Commonwealth in a way that is relevant to all citizens.
For more information on VMNH-Waynesboro, visit vmnh.net/projects/waynesboro-campus.
Laura Peters is the current affairs reporter at The News Leader. Got a tip on trends or local businesses? Or a good feature? You can reach journalist Laura Peters (she / her) at [email protected]. Am here @peterslaura. Subscribe to The News Leader at newsleader.com.