HENRY CO., Va. -

Small towns in Henry County are getting a magical make over.

Stanleytown, Bassett, Fieldale, and Koehler are now part of the 15 Magical Miles along the Smith River, which is a common thread between the towns.

It's a project by the Harvest Foundation to make the towns tourist destinations while highlighting festivals, trails, shops and restaurants already in place.

A Roanoke firm is drawing plans to revitalize streets and signage. A $35,000 grant is paying for the initial phase of the project.

Here's the new release from Nancy Cox, the Senior Program Officer with The Harvest Foundation:

Bassett, Stanleytown, Fieldale and Koehler are smaller communities in Henry County, VA connected geographically and historically by the scenic Smith River. Each community has great pride in their people and their heritage.

In 2013, the Harvest Foundation (Martinsville, VA) created the Smith River Small Towns
Collaborative – an initiative to bring community leaders around the table to develop a shared vision for placemaking and destination tourism for the small towns of Bassett, Stanleytown, Fieldale and Koehler. With the Smith River as the common denominator, the Collaborative began meeting in April 2013, with Bill Adkins and Jeb Bassett as co-chairs.

After a series of meetings, the first product of the Collaborative was a map of the “15 Magical Miles” (from Bassett south to Koehler), which features annual events, recreation, industrial heritage, historic buildings/sites, and dining/shopping/lodging. Partnering with the Tourism and Film Division of the Martinsville/Henry County Economic Development Corporation, these assets are now being promoted online.

Another Collaborative product was the identification of priorities in two major categories: revitalization/curb appeal and needed/enhanced amenities. The top four priorities for revitalization/curb appeal are: creation of town squares; cohesive/attractive signage; cohesive/ historic street lights; and cohesive/attractive landscaping. Also discussed were façade and sidewalk improvements.

The top four priorities for needed/enhanced amenities are: walking/biking trails (expansion for connectivity of all trails); bait shop/outfitter (for fishing, canoeing, biking); Bassett train depot enhancements; and creation of an outdoor music venue. Also discussed were camping areas, recreation complex, and fairground.

With assets and a shared vision identified by the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, the next step focuses on fine tuning the priorities for implementation, through the creation of a master plan. The master plan will revolve around placemaking, destination tourism, branding and marketing, and will be used to apply for a variety of federal, state, and local funds.

The County of Henry has received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) planning grant from the VA Department of Housing and Community Development to create the master plan. Hill Studio (Roanoke, VA), in response to a Request for Proposals, was selected as the consulting firm to work with the Collaborative and its community partners (County of Henry, Martinsville/Henry County Economic Development Corporation, Phoenix Community Development Corporation, and Dan River Basin Association) to create the plan.

Hill Studio specializes in community planning, landscape architecture, architecture, and historic preservation. They “believe in asset-based development that builds on the special environmental, historic, cultural and scenic resources of a community.” They will work closely with the Collaborative and its partners on placemaking, destination tourism, branding and marketing, with technical assistance to identify potential federal and state funds.

For additional information about the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, contact Nancy Cox, Senior Program Officer, Harvest Foundation. E-mail: ncox@theharvestfoundation.org. Telephone: (276) 632-3329 Ext. 12.