For the first time in decades, an idea for a new state park along the Clinch River in Southwest Virginia is now gaining speed with possible funding in the new state budget.
It won't be your normal state park with lots of acreage, but a series of smaller plots all connected by the river itself.
Locals in Southwest Virginia have been taking advantage of a natural resource in the region for years, and it's not a fossil fuel. It's the Clinch River, noted for being the most bio-diverse in the country and one of the nation's cleanest.
Now a grassroots movement to create a state park along the river has gained support, including possible funding from the state. "We're in the budget. We haven't passed the budget yet, but we're pretty confident that it's going to stay in the budget. $2.5 million in the initial phase to get started, and then another $2.5 million next year," First district Republican delegate Terry Kilgore said.
The park is rather unusual in the sense that it won't be hundreds of acres in a specific area, but several small areas along the river located near small communities in the region. "This is going to more a state park that's along the river. There's not going to be a lot of big buildings or things like that, but they'll be access points, information kiosks, and things like that," Kilgore says.
One of those small communities already taking advantage of the river's recreation is St. Paul. It sits right along the river and already has access points to it. "I think we'll all feed off of that, but mainly St. Paul. We have two access points already in the town and we've worked with a local landowner a couple of miles up river to enhance a point up there," local entrepreneur Lou Wallace says.
The park idea is not just a recreational idea but one of economic development. a idea to create small businesses and jobs in the small towns. "The idea of bringing economic development to the area has already started. There are local entrepreneurs that are tagging on to this. We've got an outfitter here that's just came along in St. Paul and started their own business last year," Wallace said.
Using a natural resource to its fullest creating recreation and jobs at the same time.
Virginia lawmakers still have not passed the budget -- they're still hung up on Medicaid expansion.