• Rotary Year: 2020-2021
  • Application Date: 7/30/2020
  • Club Name (Primary): Marion-Morning
  • Club Name 2: Hillsville
  • Club Name 3: Marion 
  • Club Name 4: Washington County
  • Project Name: Blue Ridge Discovery Center Wetland
  • Project Total Cost: $46,875.00
  • Grant Amount Requested: $12,000.00
  • Describe the Project, its location and its objectives: The Blue Ridge Discovery Center inspires curiosity, discovery, and stewardship through the wonders of the Blue Ridge. Founded in 2008, BRDC has been providing hands-on educational programming for our community without a physical place, without a “Center”. In the fall of 2017, BRDC was gifted the historic Konnarock Training School, an incredible property at the base of the highest mountains in Virginia, with a legacy of education and service to the Appalachian community. The schoolhouse is currently undergoing historic rehabilitation to become the “Center” and will open in the summer of 2021.

    Through this collaborative grant, we plan to establish a wetland in front of the Center. The wetland will accept water from the roof of the Center, as well as trap some of the groundwater that moves through the property. It will encompass an ADA accessible boardwalk that hovers over the wetland, offer stepping stone pathways for further exploration of the habitat, and be a key resource for education, observations, stormwater management, and beautification of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center.

    As a Rotary collaborative grant project, the partnering clubs are working to build relationships that cross traditional boundaries (Rotary clubs, Rotary areas, and county lines) and develop a strong regional network of community supporters and advocates to further the mission of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
  • Expected Start Date: 7/15/2020
  • Expected End Date: 5/7/2021
  • Expected Number of Beneficiaries: 20000
  • Describe how the project will benefit the community and/or improve the lives of the less fortunate: The Blue Ridge Discovery Center has built a reputation for innovation in designing programs and initiatives that address a wide range of outdoor interests. Attracting all age groups from children to adults, including professional researchers and amateur naturalists. BRDC draws on a rich vein of local knowledge to highlight the enormous variety of flora, fauna, geology, and habitats that make up the globally unique Blue Ridge ecosystem.

    With “screen time” for today’s youth at an all-time high, BRDC’s immersion programming connects our community’s youth to nature, helping develop a deep understanding and appreciation of place while inspiring further engagement.

    Students will use the Center as a base camp for field explorations into our various regional natural assets with the on-site landscaping of the wetland providing opportunities to experience native plants of the Blue Ridge right outside their residence. This wetland project will create a space for students to document findings, reflect on their experiences, and share their discoveries with others. It will also act as a point of comparison with the natural communities they find in the field. Interest-driven programming combined with experiential learning and a mentoring environment provide a powerful education lesson that develops independent, critical thinking skills. Visitors and students alike will be able to enjoy the wonders of amphibians, mammals, insects, arachnids, birds, native plants, hydrology, and so much more.

    BRDC’s mission is geared toward a breadth of participants, with a targeted focus on those whose access to nature may be limited. This includes participants with physical limitations, urban youth and families with limited connections to nature, and the economically disadvantaged. The BRDC wetland project will allow participants within these less fortunate demographics to access one of the most ecologically important – and perceptibly inaccessible – ecosystems for immersive, hands-on experiences in nature, regardless of ability or socioeconomic status.

    Secondary effects of nature immersion include mental health benefits. According to numerous studies, the mental health benefits of time spent in natural areas include: improved sensory perception, decreased anxiety, decreased stress levels, improved self-confidence through a broader range of interests and perceived abilities, decreased activity in the region of the brain associated with depression, and an increase in the level of connectedness with others. BRDC program participants practice observation, reflection, journaling, and communication, all of which are effective tools in mental health care.

    The Blue Ridge Discovery Center is a catalyst for conservation, education, and economic development – all which are vital to the Southwest Virginia region and its future. Within three years of the Center’s completion, BRDC expects to host 95 programs that will serve nearly 4,000 participants, receive more than 2,500 visitors annually, and create 20+ jobs, with secondary and tertiary economic impacts.
  • Expected Total Project Volunteer Hours: 280
  • Describe the Rotarian hands-on activities in the project (i.e. non-financial participation): Rotarians will help plant native plants, assist with boardwalk construction, and help install landscape features including bat houses, stepping stones, solitary bee habitat, and wetland pools.
  • Describe the publicity plan to inform the general public that this is a Rotary sponsored project: This project is a partnership between Rotary Clubs spanning two areas (Area 11 & 12) and three counties (Smyth, Washington & Carroll) – Marion Morning Rotary, The Rotary Club of Marion, Rotary Club of Washington County, and Rotary Club of Hillsville.

    Signage will be developed for the site to highlight features of the wetland and Rotary’s sponsorship of the project including each club.

    A media release will be sent to the following news outlets:
    ● Galax Gazette
    ● Carroll News
    ● Independence Declaration
    ● Smyth County News & Messenger
    ● Washington County News
    ● Saltville Progress
    ● FM94
    ● WCYB
    ● WJHL
    ● WKPT
    ● WDBJ
    ● 98.1 FM WBRF
    ● Smyth County Chamber of Commerce newsletter

    The project will also be publicized through Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s blog and quarterly newsletter as well as the social media pages for Blue Ridge Discovery Center and each of the collaborating Rotary clubs.
  • Cooperating Organizations – Please list each cooperating organization, if any: Blue Ridge Discovery Center, Inc.
  • Letter(s) of Participation: BRDC_Letter_of_Participation.pdf
  • Project Expenditure Budget – list detail uses of funds for the project, or use the Budget Upload.See Budget Upload
  • Project Funding Budget – list detail sources of funds for the project, or use the Budget UploadSee Budget Upload
  • Budget Upload: BRDC_Wetland_Budget.xlsx
  • Primary Contact Name: Heather Bunch
  • Primary Contact Rotary Position: President, Marion Morning Rotary
  • Primary Contact Email: rotary@globetrekker.net
  • Primary Contact Phone: (276) 780-9580
  • Financial Contact Name: Bob Shults
  • Financial Contact Rotary Position: Treasurer, Marion Morning Rotary
  • Financial Contact Address: 
    PO Box 189
    Marion, VA 24354
    United States View on Map
  • Financial Contact Email: bob@shultskiser.com
  • Financial Contact Phone: 276-783-1040
  • Project Authorization Form: BRDC_Wetland_Project_Authorization.pdf
  • Supporting Uploads: BRDC_Wetland_Project_Details_Drawings.pdf, BRDC_Wetland_Project_Details_Volunteer_Day.pdf