What will it be like to live in the New River Valley over the next twenty years?
Well, that depends on what happens now that a 3 year study on livability in the NRV is complete and ready to be acted upon.
More than 3,000 people from all over the New River Valley weighed in on which issues they’re most concerned about for the future of this region; including housing, transportation, energy, environment, and cultural assets which define this part of south western Virginia.
The NRV was one of 45 regions in the country, which got 1 million dollar federal grants to gather the data.
Jessica Wirgau, Executive Director of the New River Valley Foundation says changing demographics is what will drive many of the changes we see in the next 20 years. Not only is the overall population expected to increase, but also the number of people over 65 will double to as many as 1 in 4 in some parts.
“We know for example that housing in the NRV was largely built in the 1970s. Most of our homes are 30 years or older and of course many of the are not suitable for an ageing population. So that was some really interesting information that came to us regarding, how people are living in the area. How close they want to be to where they work. What kind of transportation options they have. “
Wirgau says the Foundation, working with the New River Valley Planning District, they reached out to people all over the region who might otherwise not have responded to surveys or had their voices heard. Working with the Arts Center at Virginia Tech, they held story sessions and dramatic performances as a way to hear dramatize their concerns.
“In all the public engagement work that we did “People kept going back to the idea that we know our area is going to grow and develop, but we want to be able to protect the character of the community, the rural background that we have, the agricultural nature of so many of our counties in the NRV. So the goals and strategies that are suggested in the report really keep that in mind.”
Wirgau says the next step is to mine this data and identify ways to achieve the goals people have said they want to see for the New River Valley in coming years.
“So often, people assume that when you develop a community plan that it’s going to sit on the shelf or that it’s going to be the responsibility of the local government to get it done and what we wanted to make clear from the beg is that this is truly a community effort which means it’s going to take our nonprofit organizations, private industry, business and government looking at this, saying what are the projects that are most important to us.”
The report on livability in the New River Valley will be available online this week. And copies are now being printed for distribution. But that doesn’t mean the time to share ideas and concerns is over. Area residents, businesses and organizations, who would like to add their comments or ask questions, can contact the New River Valley Community Foundation or the Planning District Council.
People are invited to gathering where the livability reports creators will give an overview of the findings and to network with others about what’s next. Networking starts at 7:30 am and the program begins at 8-In Christiansburg at Lucie Monroe’s Coffee Company