It was both encouraging and refreshing to read this week that the new leaders of Glade Spring, Virginia, have dedicated themselves to the revitalization of this quaint Washington County town and are determined to carry forth efforts that have stalled in the past.

“Glade Spring is a happening place right now,” newly elected mayor Leighann Lloyd told the Bristol Herald Courier in a story by Carolyn R. Wilson. “We are inspired and filled with hope.”

Lloyd and a team of Town Council members are spearheading renewal efforts for the historic community of about 1,400 residents, which dates to the mid-1700s and now sits just off Interstate 81’s Exit 29 — which makes it easily accessible to visitors.

As with many of Southwest Virginia’s small communities, revitalization of Glade Spring is one of the keys to opening our region to increased tourism and development, which will, in turn, lead to more jobs and financial stability.

To highlight the renewal efforts, a group called Project Glade is creating a “Welcome to Glade Spring” mural at the entrance to the Town Square featuring a rolling hills background and a dogwood logo. The mountain scene is similar to the view of the nearby Appalachian Mountains as seen from downtown, which is part of what makes Glade Spring such a special place.

The mural was made possible by a grant from the Main Street Affiliate Program and is being painted by volunteers.

“The main portion of the design is the sky, and we sketched in the mountain ranges. We wanted to make sure we made this simple and doable so that everyone could be involved,” Leslie Peterson, president of Project Glade, told the newspaper.

It’s a lead-in to other downtown efforts such as the planned establishment of a community wellness center and the renewal and repurposing of unused downtown buildings in the Glade Spring Commercial Historic District, which is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The mayor said one of her top priorities is to give new life to the vacant buildings, something that has become a daunting task for so many of our once-thriving small towns in the heart of Appalachia.

Already, a new restaurant is planned for downtown, called Sarah Jean’s Eatery, which owners Bradley and Katy Griffin and his parents, Dean and Janet Griffin, will operate as a casual diner. It will feature produce from the nearby Glade Springs Farmers Market, another recent downtown addition that is growing in popularity.

The Point, Glade Spring’s farmers market pavilion, was created during revitalization efforts in 2017. It houses the three-season operation that is one of only a few indoor farmers markets in a 50-mile radius, the story noted.

“I know some people were disappointed after [previous recent] revitalization efforts came to a halt only a few years after they started,” Lloyd said. “I think the town is similar to the mythical bird, [the] phoenix, that regenerates and is born again. Something more beautiful always comes out of it. Something better for this town will come around.”

We hope that Glade Spring’s newest revitalization efforts will be successful and will serve as a blueprint and beacon of inspiration and hope that will encourage more of our historic communities to ramp up their own renewal efforts.

A brighter future for our region might very well depend on such successful initiatives.

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