Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. You can send yours for possible inclusion to

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High Knob Recreation Area now fully open

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests’ High Knob Recreation Area has fully opened to visitors thanks to the help from a coalition of local partners, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service This popular recreation site, located on the Clinch Ranger District in Wise County, was intermittently closed over the last three years due to multiple water system breakdowns.

A partnership among the USDA Forest Service, Wise County Public Service Authority, City of Norton and the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission completed critical infrastructure upgrades on the water distribution system.  

Beginning in 2019, LENOWISCO funded the Wise County Public Service Authority‘s engineering evaluation and phase one replacement of the High Knob Recreation Area’s water distribution system, including a $32,000 grant. Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act contributed an additional $20,000 to the project.

The Wise County Public Service Authority, with assistance of the City of Norton, completed the project in spring 2022, replacing over 2,000 feet of waterline, repairing electrical components, replacing the well pump, and pressure testing and troubleshooting the new system. The WCPSA contributed over 840 hours of labor to complete the project. 

Additional enhancement projects were completed at the High Knob lake area thanks to the City of Norton’s Industrial Development Authority, the Friends of Southwest Virginia and the Appalachian Regional Commission. These included: repairing the siltation pipe, adding beach sand, and removing vegetation in the beach area. Before and after imagery of this project can be found on the City of Norton’s YouTube Channel at

The Forest Service continues to pursue funding to improve the historic buildings and update the wastewater system.

Members of the High Knob Music Festival actively help to maintain the grounds and facilities and completed a full replacement of the interpretive area stage in 2020. The City of Norton helps to maintain roadside brushing to ensure the entrance road is clear.

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Roanoke group gets federal grant for job training with inmates

Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley has received nearly $3 million in federal funding to provide training and career counseling services to incarcerated individuals so that they are prepared for employment opportunities and able to successfully transition into the workforce following their release.

The announcement was made by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Virignia.

The grant for $2,999,999 was awarded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA)’s Pathway Homes program, which works to improve employability outcomes for adults during the reentry process from incarceration.

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Salem Museum offers two programs on Roanoke’s Gainsboro neighborhood

Two upcoming programs presented by the Salem Museum will explore the history of Roanoke’s Gainsboro neighborhood. On Thursday, July 14 at 7 pm, Megan Mizak will speak on the history of Roanoke’s first public library for African Americans as part of the Salem Museum Speaker Series. On Saturday, July 16 at 10 am, Jordan Bell will lead a tour through the Gainsboro neighborhood, sharing details of historic sites and structures. The tour leaves from the Gainsboro Branch Library. The fee for adults (age 15 and up) is $10. For more information, visit

During the years of segregation, Roanoke’s historic Gainsboro neighborhood was a thriving, predominantly African American community. Its residents, businesses, medical facilities, churches, school, and more, created a vibrant, self-sufficient center of Black culture and commerce. Gainsboro’s Henry Street was notable as the heart of entertainment with restaurants, hotels, and clubs that hosted musical icons like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, and Dizzy Gillespie.

In the 1950s, “Urban Renewal” decimated the Roanoke City’s Black neighborhoods. City leaders declared large sections of Black neighborhoods “blighted,” which led to properties being bought or condemned, and the leveling of 1,600 homes, 200 businesses, and 24 churches. Today, many important commercial and institutional buildings, as well as private homes, still remain in the Gainsboro neighborhood.

Salem Museum Speaker Series

Jim Crow and Southern Libraries: The Story of the Gainsboro Branch Library

Thursday, July 14 at 7 pm.

This talk will be in-person at the Salem Museum and on Zoom. The link will be available on the Museum’s website,, on the morning of the talk.

In the early twentieth century, public libraries began to spread throughout the United States. In the South, however, Jim Crow laws denied African Americans access to public library facilities. While the work of activists did not succeed in integrating public libraries, it did bring funding for African American library branch facilities. The first freestanding public library for and operated by Blacks in Virginia opened in 1921 in Norfolk. The second was in Roanoke. This talk by branch manager Megan Mizak will explore the rich history of the Commonwealth’s second library for African Americans, the Gainsboro Branch Library, from its founding by important community leaders through the tenure of its most beloved librarian, Virginia Y. Lee.

Megan Mizak has worked at the Gainsboro Branch Library since 2011 and has been branch manager since June of 2021.  Since working at the library, Mizak has curated, maintained and preserved the library’s Virginia Y. Lee Collection, which is composed of rare books, historical documents, photographs and reference materials that focus on African American history in the Roanoke Valley. As a dedicated public servant devoted to maintaining community connections and local history, she has sought out and fostered relationships with local community partners regarding the role of Roanoke Public Libraries’ interest in historical preservation.

Walking Tour of Historic Gainsboro

Saturday, July 16. The tour departs at 10 am from the Gainsboro Branch Library, 15 Patton Avenue NE, Roanoke. Jordan Bell, the tour’s leader, will introduce participants to Roanoke’s historic Gainsboro neighborhood. He will share information about sites and structures, and the many notable individuals who have lived in the neighborhood. The fee for youth and adults is $10, payable to Bell on-site before the start of the tour. Children age 14 and under are free and very welcome. The two-hour tour is cancelled in case of rain.

Jordan Bell is a Gainsboro resident, community activist, Roanoke City Public Schools teacher, historian, and a Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation board member. Bell has given tours of the historical Gainsboro community to hundreds of people. He is currently working on a book and a documentary about Gainsboro’s history.

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Salem Rotary Paul Harris Fellows. Courtesy of Salem Rotary.

Salem Rotary honors 36

On June 16, 20222 at the Salem Civic Center, the Rotary Club of Salem awarded thirty-six people Paul Harris Fellows.  Club Committee Chairman Matt Pollard read the narratives of each individual, while Club President Tom Bowers presented the certificates and pins. President Elect Jane Johnson was named a “Major Donor.”

The Paul Harris recognition held once a year at the end of the Rotary year is named for Paul Harris, who founded Rotary with three business colleagues in Chicago in 1905. The Paul Harris Fellow Foundation was established in his honor in 1957 to express appreciation for a contribution of $1,000 to the humanitarian and educational programs of the Rotary Foundation. The funds provide educational opportunities of food, potable water, health care, immunizations and shelter for millions of people. These activities are funded, implemented and managed by Rotarians and Rotary clubs around the globe. Rotarians also may designate a Paul Harris Fellow to recognize another person whose life demonstrates a shared purpose with objectives and mission of the Rotary Foundation to build world understanding and peace.  The Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, the PolioPlus campaign, or approved Foundation grants. 

Some of this year’s recipients are Rotarians who have been named Paul Harris Fellows by other Rotarians. Some Rotarians who were close to $1,000 dollar mark in personal giving, or who were given points by the Club’s Paul Harris Committee to reach the $1,000 mark. Some recipients are spouses of Rotarians and others are designated a Fellow as they epitomize the “Service Above Self” motto.  Other recipients are non-Rotarians; people in our community who serve our community in so many ways or they are named by individual Rotarians or by the Club for their service to the community.  

Those awarded were:

Left to Right Photo

Cindy Lichtenstein

Rick Rosti

Officer Jonathan Detzler

Mallory Graham

Dr. Curtis Hicks

Ed Green

Jeremy Longshore

Rosie Jordan

James Bowen

Joanne Thornhill

Ben Crew

Kathryn Elmore

Meg Crew

Jim Wallace

Dee King

Brooke Bowers

Tom Bowers

Blair Bowers

David Mount

Carl Hart