Only four months on the job and Liza Park has already made strides towards Virden’s “boost”.
The Economic Development Manager (EDM) began her new position with the Town of Virden in March and has been working with Virden’s Boost Committee to rejuvenate the town.
Their attention is focused on ideas contained in a report by the National Trust’s Main Street Boost program.
That report was unveiled at a public meeting in April and identified 30 projects to make the town more inviting. Below are updates on some of the committee’s accomplishments so far.
Signs that guide travelers into Virden were identified early on as a high priority.
Park says the Town and the Boost Committee have applied to the Province for grant money to help pay for signage.
“Our main focus now is directional signage that points visitors to the downtown and recreational areas when they come off Highways 1 and 83.
“Depending on how much money we get, we hope to start planning the signs this winter and erect them in spring.”
The Virden Lions Club recently gave Virden Boost $5,000 for public benches.
Park says they’re now trying to get a matching grant that would double their money to invest in more outdoor seating around town.
“Tourism is a huge economic tool,” says Park. “And Virden has a lot to offer.”
To that end, Park sought and acquired funding to host a community workshop for businesses and other organizations impacted by tourist activity.
Under the program, a facilitator will come to Virden to hold a one-day seminar on how to structure a local tourism board.
“Then we take that board and create a tourism strategy for Virden for 2019.”
Park hopes the board-to-be will also take over the role of hiring and training summer staff to manage Virden’s tourist information centre. (The tourist desk, normally set up in the CP Historic Centre, is not staffed this year.)
Virden’s first official photo contest has been launched and runs all summer, another item from the Boost Report’s wish list. It offers cash prizes, a public showing of the winning images, and something else:
“One of the goals identified in the Boost Report was to get more photos of the Virden area that the Town can use to promote itself,” says Park.
“What better way to create a sense of community while we update our marketing photo library?”
Full details about the contest are on the Town of Virden website but basically there are five categories ranging from Rodeo to Business to Heritage.
The top five entries in each category will be printed on canvas and displayed at the Arts Mosaic gallery where the public can view and vote for their favorites.
The winners will be announced in September at Virden’s first ever…
The Boost Committee is hammering out the details of a Virden Community Expo where businesses and non-profit groups will be given space to showcase their work so visitors can learn more about them.
While much progress has been made on these Boost projects, the future of the burned-out lots downtown is still uncertain.
Park says there’s been some preliminary discussion on what to do, but the Town’s “hands are tied” because the property is still stuck in insurance limbo.
The fire destroyed three heritage buildings on Seventh Ave. last September 23. Investigators believe it was arson but no one has been charged.