RONCEVERTE (WVDN) – Dan Withrow has a plan.
Withrow, who is the chair of the parks and recreation commission for the city of Ronceverte, is ready to take the existing Island Park community space and expand it beyond its to include a wide variety of recreational amenities for locals and tourists alike.
“I see Ronceverte as having the potential to be a little Fayetteville,” says Withrow.
The Greenbrier River flows right through Ronceverte, and it is the town’s biggest threat and, says Withrow, its biggest asset.
“We’re the only town in the area that has the Greenbrier River running right through the middle of town,” he says. Withrow’s plan is to utilize the river, and its banks, to create adventure tourism right in Ronceverte.
At the epicenter of this expansion plan is the 20-acre Island Park, which Withrow and the city plan to expand to include a large music venue to accommodate large festivals and concerts.
Island Park currently has an outdoor amphitheater which will serve as the site of the newly revitalized Skyline Bluegrass Festival on the River on July 16, returning to Ronceverte for the first time since the ground-breaking music festival ended in 1985.
The return of Skyline marks the beginning of Ronceverte’s recreational revitalization, Withrow says.
In the near future, in addition to a new music venue that can house over 3,000 music fans, Withrow envisions campsites along the river, south of the Rt. 219 bridge along Monroe Avenue, to accommodate concertgoers, kayakers, mountain bikers and other adventure lovers.
“We also want to create space for ‘glamping’ sites,” Withrow says, referring to an upgraded style of outdoor accommodations that offers more amenities than your average tent camp setup.
Plans also include a revitalized Edgar Avenue, the small, downtown street that runs adjacent to the river.
Withrow has again recently become co-owner of Edgar Avenue’s Sportsman Tavern.
This is the third time Withrow has owned the Sportsman, which he says is the oldest bar in West Virginia.
This go-round, his vision for the Sportsman involves a complete renovation and upgrade, taking it from an old-style dive bar to a taproom serving ales to the most discerning customer.
Withrow says this vision isn’t necessarily too upscale, however.
“We want people to feel like they can come in off the river or off the bike trails and have a beer,” he says.
Withrow’s plan for Edgar Avenue doesn’t end there: he and other stakeholders envision blocking off the street on the weekends to accommodate food trucks and live music.
With the recent revitalization of White Sulphur Springs, and Lewisburg’s place as a tourist destination already on the map, Withrow envisions the three municipalities teaming up to create the “triple crown” of tourism in the area.
Connecting the towns, he says, will be the Lewisburg and Ronceverte Trail, commonly known as the L&R Trail. The L&R Trail traces the route of the former L&R Railroad which connected the two towns between 1906 and 1931.
Construction of this six-mile trail is ongoing, and Withrow sees huge potential for mountain and trail bike enthusiasts to travel to Ronceverte to ride.
“Most places, you have to travel miles outside of town to access trails,” says Withrow. “We have in-town access. You can ride your bike all day, hop off, and go grab a beer or a bite to eat on Edgar Avenue.
“Then,” he says, “you can camp in town along the river.”
The Ronceverte Parks and Recreation Commission recently received $25,000 in grant funding to create a comprehensive plan for the Ronceverte recreational areas.
E.L. Robinson Engineering out of Charleston has been commissioned to map the proposed recreation areas and create a cohesive plan. Phases of the comprehensive plan creation include base mapping, data collection, property inventory and analysis, public meetings, a conceptual design to be presented to the public, and finally, a final master plan.
The parks commission will be holding a presentation of the comprehensive plan at Ronceverte City Hall on Wednesday evening, June 29, at 5:30 p.m.
All are welcome and public input is encouraged.