ROANOKE, Va. – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 200% spike in use of outdoor amenities in the Roanoke area. Now, a local nonprofit wants to raise money to repair, maintain and improve outdoors spaces so they aren’t worn down.
“We run the risk of loving our outdoor assets to death,” said Roanoke Outside Foundation Director Pete Eshelman.
The foundation started Project Outside, a fundraising campaign aimed at raising money to benefit outdoor amenities in the region.
The goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of the year to help cash-strapped local governments with maintenance, repairs, and even expand and improve trails, parks, rivers, and other public spaces. Plus, the money could help launch and support businesses in the outdoor sector.
“How can we build trails in weeks and months, rather than months and years? You know, if something is damaged by flooding, how can this fund help repair that? How can we build new projects? Like new put-ins on the river, or an in-river kayak park,” said Eshelman.
Regional assets the foundation is planning to protect include the greenways, the Appalachian Trail, the Roanoke and James Rivers, Carvins Cove, Mill Mountain and Explore Park because of the value they bring to Roanoke. They positively affect quality of life and are an economic driver for businesses, tourists and residents.
When David Hunt decided where he wanted to live, he settled on Roanoke for one reason.
“I moved to Roanoke because of the availability of biking and hiking,” said Hunt. “It literally is why I’m here.”
Ray McQueen and his family love exploring what the region has to offer outdoors.
“[The pandemic has] caused me to get outdoors more,” said McQueen. “I was more of a gym guy. I would be inside working out but I wasn’t enjoying the sun, so to speak. And so now, it’s allowing me to be getting some vitamin D.”
Eshelman said it’s time for everyone who uses those outdoor recreational spots to show how much they’re worth.
“Ask yourself, ‘How often are you using the trails, the rivers, the greenways?‘ And then try to put a dollar value on that,” said Eshelman. “For the price of a few granola bars. You can make a difference.”
Project Outside has already raised more than $50,000. The fundraiser will continue even after the $100,000 goal is met. To learn more or donate, click here.