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October 3, 2018

The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) recently awarded a $75,000 grant to the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation for construction of the VMNH Outdoor Education Pavilion, a multi-use covered structure with exhibit materials interpreting the natural features and forest ecology of adjacent J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park.

Outdoor Pavilion“The Outdoor Education Pavilion represents a significant tourism, economic development, and quality of life initiative,” said Dr. Barry Dorsey, chair of the VMNH Board of Trustees   “The pavilion and its resulting impact will generate greater public awareness, visitation and tourism spending for the museum, partnering organizations and the entire region.”

The pavilion will be a multi-season covered structure, with flexible-use outdoor seating and a variety of exhibit materials highlighting the natural elements and forest ecology of nearby J. Frank Wilson Park.  The pavilion will serve as a venue for outdoor education programs, special events, café seating, and rentals by outside individuals and organizations.

“The Outdoor Education Pavilion and its resulting education programs, interpretive elements and multi-use functionality will further position the museum and the region as a premier visitor destination,” said Dr. Joe Keiper, VMNH executive director.  “With 70% of visitors coming from outside the local area, the addition of the pavilion represents an aggressive enhancement for VMNH and the region.”

The $75,000 in TRRC support represents 50 percent of the overall project cost of $150,000, with matching support being sought through individual, corporate and foundation support.

“This facility will serve as a dynamic resource for the region, providing greater visibility and enhanced visitor experiences,” said RyanBarber, VMNH deputy director and project lead.  “We look forward to partnering with area individuals, companies and foundations to complete this important initiative through matching support.”

The TRRC is a 28-member body created by the 1999 General Assembly. Its mission is to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities through the use of proceeds of the national tobacco settlement.  To date, the Commission has awarded 2,102 grants totaling more than $1.1 billion across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth, and has provided $309 million in indemnification payments to tobacco growers and quota holders.

"Supporting education and tourism in Southern and Southwest Virginia are important parts of the Tobacco Commission's mission," said Delegate Danny Marshall, who represents Virginia's 14th district.  "This education pavilion will allow us to attract more people to our region so that they can learn about Virginia's rich history and experience all that Martinsville and Southern Virginia have to offer. I am pleased that the Tobacco Commission chose to support this project and look forward to visiting the museum myself once the pavilion is completed."

Fellow delegate, Les Adams, who represents Virginia's 16th district, elaborated on the benefit that the pavilion will have for the region.

"The Virginia Museum of Natural History is a remarkable institution that benefits the region and the entire Commonwealth,” said Delegate Les Adams.  “The Outdoor Education Pavilion will support continued economic growth, while serving as a valuable resource for outdoor education programs and regional tourism.”