Bear Creek Reservoir.
The town of Wise received a $15,000 grant for work at Bear Creek Reservoir. Photo courtesy of UVA Wise/Mark Robertson-Baker II.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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2023 Cumberland Forest Community Fund award recipients announced

Ten outdoors-based economic and community development projects across Southwest Virginia have been awarded a total of $140,000 through the Cumberland Forest Community Fund.

The annual awards support development in seven localities: Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties and the city of Norton. The grant program is funded by The Nature Conservancy and the Cumberland Forest Limited Partnership and administered by administered by the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

“We are extremely excited about this year’s recipients,” Nick Procter, community outreach coordinator with The Nature Conservancy, said in a news release announcing the grants. “The quality of awarded projects is a testament to the creative, thoughtful commitment that our communities have in solving unique challenges in Southwest Virginia. Each of the projects demonstrates the Fund’s triple bottom line: community, nature, and economy.”

In 2022, the first round of grants provided funding for 10 projects throughout the region. The second round of funding launched in January, and projects were selected through a competitive process that solicited proposals from nonprofits and communities.

The 2023 grant recipients:

  • Friends of Southwest Virginia: $19,000 for the Tyler Flanary pump track and skate park, which will provide an opportunity to connect enthusiasts to the world-class mountain biking resources of the region, as well as host events in Big Stone Gap.
  • Appalachian Voices: $15,000 for the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, which is working to build a local solar industry to support efforts around economic diversification. The grant will support solar deployment and rooftop installation for one community anchor institution in the region.
  • Town of Cleveland: $5,000 for the Riverbend Campground’s Nurturing Nature project, which seeks to promote sustainable development and conservation of the environment through a tree-planting initiative.
  • Clinch River Valley Initiative: $11,500 for marketing initiatives to promote outdoor recreation assets along the Clinch River and engage residents as stewards of their lands and waters.
  • Town of Wise: $15,000 to support repairs and updates to restroom facilities at the Bear Creek Reservoir, an outdoor recreation area.
  • Town of Lebanon: $15,000 to upgrade the surface of one of the town’s playgrounds.
  • Town of Pennington Gap: $12,000 to expand the outdoor classroom area on the Pennington Gap Greenway. Money from the first round of Cumberland Forest Community Fund grants helped build the classroom; the new grant will help pay for educational signage, accessibility adjustments, native plants and pollinator gardens, educational stations and compost bins.
  • Breaks Interstate Park: $30,000 to improve existing trails and construct new trails. Since 2015, the park has developed more than 300 climbing routes for rock climbers of different skill levels and received an award in the first round of Cumberland Forest Community Fund grants. The park also will create a climbing master plan to guide future development.
  • SWVA Sportsman: $15,000 to expand habitat restoration efforts and provide additional wildlife food plots for elk in Buchanan County. SWVA Sportsman received money from the first round of Cumberland Forest Community Fund grants.
  • Town of St. Paul: $2,500 to complete the construction of a bridge and walking trail at the Wetlands Estonoa Learning Center. The Cumberland Forest Community Fund supported the first phase of the bridge that overlooks the wetlands and connects the half-mile trail.

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RAMP accepting application for fall cohort through Aug. 13 

The Roanoke-based Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program, or RAMP, is accepting applications through Aug. 13 for its fall cohort, which will be geared toward health and life science companies.

Companies that are chosen for the cohort will receive $20,000 in equity-free funding, as well as 12 weeks of courses, ongoing mentoring, office space and memberships in industry organizations.

More information and application materials are online.

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New River Valley candidate forums announced

The Montgomery County/Radford/Floyd County branch of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County will host a series of candidate forums this summer and fall.

Candidates for each office are invited to participate. Forums will be held on Thursdays beginning at 7 p.m. Voters, residents and community organizations are invited to attend.

Forums will be held on the following days:

Aug. 24 at the Lyric Theatre: House of Delegates Districts 41 and 42, Senate Districts 4 and 5.

Sept. 7 at the Montgomery County Government Building: Montgomery County School Board.

Sept. 14 at the Montgomery County Government Building: Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 21 at the Montgomery County Government Building: Montgomery County clerk of court, treasurer, commissioner of revenue.

Sept. 28 at the Montgomery County Government Building: Montgomery County commonwealth’s attorney, sheriff.

Oct. 5 at the Blacksburg Municipal Building: Blacksburg Town Council.

Oct. 12 at Christiansburg Town Hall: Christiansburg Town Council.

For more information about the forums, visit or