State budget includes $250,000 to continue planning for new museum campus in Waynesboro
The Commonwealth of Virginia has provided the Virginia Museum of Natural History a $250,000 appropriation to produce detailed planning for its proposed branch campus in Waynesboro. To be located downtown, the 25,000 square-foot facility will host exhibits and hands-on learning experiences for all ages that focus on the unique plants, animals, geology, and culture of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. The proposed branch supports the state’s economic development, educational, and environmental priorities.
"We greatly appreciate the confidence of Senator Emmett Hanger, Delegate Richard P. Bell, the General Assembly, and Governor Ralph Northam in providing the funding for this, the next phase of the project," said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.
The funds enable the museum to solicit proposals to design exhibits that present the natural and cultural history of the valley and mountains. In addition to displays, the branch will include a 2,000 square foot early childhood learning center, classrooms, and a working laboratory for aquatic and related research. The branch will enrich STEM educational experiences for K-12 students in the region and provide lab space for scientists studying the South River’s unique ecosystem.
“That the state budget includes $250,000 to complete architectural plans for the Virginia Museum of Natural History's branch campus in Waynesboro is testimony to the City of Waynesboro’s commitment to the project,” said Len Poulin, chairman of the Center for Coldwaters Restoration (CCR). “For more than 10 years, CCR has been collaborating with the city, numerous community organizations, federal and state agencies, private foundations, and literally hundreds of private citizens to capitalize on the river for the natural resource-based revitalization of downtown."
In preparation for the appropriation, the museum, the City of Waynesboro, and CCR commissioned an economic impact study by Chmura Economics & Analytics. The study projected that the new branch will be financially self-sustaining and bring 65,000 tourists each year into the downtown, including 63,000 K-12 students from the 156 schools in the service area of six cities and five counties. The study also projected the new branch will produce 10 jobs (108 during construction), and add $1.8 million annually to the local economy. The proximity to the south entrance of Shenandoah National Park will draw an estimated 40,000 tourists each year.
“The revitalization of downtown is a major goal of the city," said Greg Hitchin, CEcD, director of economic development and tourism for the City of Waynesboro. "A campus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro is a huge step in redefining our landscape and will provide an exceptional opportunity for citizens, while drawing many visitors, providing jobs and supporting small businesses."
A subsequent schematic design by Quatrefoil & Associates projected the total cost of the branch to be about $10 million. To date, the city and its citizens have raised about $1,300,000 toward the project.
For more information about the museum's proposed Waynesboro campus, visit www.vmnh.net/waynesboro.